As I stood in the back of the room at my grandma’s memorial listening to people as they passed the microphone and shared stories of her, I wished I could go up there and say something. Both my crippling fear of public speaking and my emotions wouldn’t let me. When I got into the car afterward, though, I thought more: If I could have gone up there, what would I have said?
There was the summer we cleaned houses together, the time she let me drive her car just after I got my permit, the time my parents went out of town and sent her over to make sure we didn’t throw a party, the time she taught me how to make pie. Which one of those stories would be interesting to tell? It was then that I realized our relationship wasn’t about one poignant moment. It was all of those moments, and every hug in between, that helped to shape who I am and how I parent my own children.
My parents recently celebrated their 36th wedding anniversary, but they both are children of divorce. Each one of my grandparents got remarried, which meant I grew up with a total of eight grandparents. Having lost six of those eight grandparents now that I’m in my mid-30s, I’ve begun to understand that, while our parents play a pivotal role in who we are, so do our grandparents.
Whether you have eight or even just one grandparent, it’s likely that relationship is special. Here are just a few ways they shape us that we often don’t realize until they are gone.