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Archive for March 4th, 2011

John, Grandma & Me.

Seussical Musical – Grama crashes the party!
Grandma with author Devon
This Grama is Fun!

 

We never used the words “step” or “half”, when referring to the mom who raised us or to the relationship between brothers and sister. But we were not told who Grandma Tanberg really was until my older brother and I started questioning the fact that we had grandparents with three different last names.

Originally our questions met a stall tactic by my parents. They would respond with things like, “Well, aren’t you glad she IS your grandma?” This, of course, was true because she was so much fun to be with. The truth did not come out until our curiosity pushed the questioning further and this was middle grade school time.

The eventual explanation of our heritage was a very huge piece of life for us, as young children, to digest — especially because there was little more offered than the historical happening. The little boy in that bed with Grandma and the banana was the baby her daughter chose from an orphanage as her first child. Her daughter’s first-born child was me.

Grandma’s daughter — my birth mother — had gotten very ill with toxemia poisoning near the end of her pregnancy. Then, the doctors discovered she had only one kidney which was failing. I was born prematurely and barely survived. My mother died shortly after my birth. About two years later, my dad remarried, and their love for each other added another brother to the family.

While there was no malicious intent to the secrecy, the outcome for me was the veiling of the identity of another very important person — my birth mother. After being told the factual information of my mother’s death, we were admonished not to talk about it because it was “nobody else’s business”.

It was my business, however, and I was haunted for many years with the desire to know the personality and reality of the person who gave life to me. I felt too tongue-tied to approach my father, who would have to relive his loss to answer my questions. I felt disloyal to question my second mom, but actually managed to expand my comfort zone to receive some information from her.

After I was married, and a mother myself, my search for knowing my mother as a person intensified. The birth of my first daughter brought the spirit of my birth mother very close to me, right into my hospital room to be exact.

Once I started asking questions, a cousin helped me unravel a lot of the mystery from those days of youth and silence. My mother’s best friend from nursing school — who was also my mother’s maid of honor — was another person our family visited regularly when I was a child and I had no knowledge of the connection between my mother and her. She just seemed to love me an awful lot for not being even an aunt or some relative.

But it turns out when I became an adult, we developed a very special writing relationship and she was then another person who gave me glimpses of my mother as a young woman and her friend. And because of her, I know two of the very best things I could know about my mother.

When my mother chose Dave from the orphanage, she expressed the conviction that he was definitely the son for dad and her. “No one can love him as well as I can,” she said to my father. The adoption took place. When she discovered she was pregnant with me, she exclaimed to her friend, “I am so happy. Now I know what my life is about.”

I feel the same way about the wondrous gift of my two lovely, talented and spirited daughters who live their lives to the fullest. I receive the greatest joy in our growing, ever-changing relationships.

I do not think that silence was golden during the time I could have learned so much about my own mother from my grandmother when we were together. Instead, I think I missed a golden opportunity to know my own mom by learning about her through her own mother’s eyes.

Grandma’s ability and discipline to remain silent (for obviously and unexplainably, she was under the same understood edict) was a most courageous act of love on her part. And she constantly imparted that love to me.

Until I wrote this column, over sixteen years ago, I was still dealing with all of the heavy ramifications of loss for my own self. But when I was completing this work, I was aghast at what it must have meant for grandma. How difficult it must have been. Whatever stopped either of us, if even behind a hidden pine-tree for me to either ask or for her to tell me she had something special to say to me and we could keep our own little secrets. You have to wonder.

I am a grandma now and I know, without a doubt, I would never be silent about my daughters, if their children had not known them. Period.

I also know I could not love my three grandchildren more.

When I wrote this column, our daughter Kathleen was soon to be giving birth to our first grandchild, who is now turning sixteen very soon.  I said at that time, “Just to think of the birth of our first grandchild — it makes me giggle. Pass the banana!”

And we’ve been bananas ever since!

My Three Favorite People

 

 

 

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