This past holiday weekend found our two older children heading out on a road trip to attend their paternal Great Grandmother’s 95th birthday. (She turned 95 proper earlier in the year, but opted for a summertime gathering.) From the stories and the pictures I saw, it was a beautiful celebration of an eternally beautiful woman.
Nana, as she is known to everyone, is hands down one of the kindest people I have ever met. And she really is one of those people who’s love, once she gives it to you, sticks to your ribs forever.
This ‘stick to your ribs’ kind of love must be a genetically dominant trait because the whole family is full of it. Nana’s daughter (who we call Gigi Kathy, and is Sutter and Laney’s Grandmother and my former mother in law) has never let the hiccup of a dissolved marriage interrupt our relationship. The close bond she and I have always shared has given Sutter and Laney the gift of continuity despite the fact that their Dad and I divorced many years ago.
Yes, a marriage dissolved, and the formal ‘daughter in law’ space in their family has long been filled by a beautiful and kind woman who is my ex’s ideal mate as well as a great ‘other mother’ to Sutter and Laney, but this has not changed the love between the rest of us. That love has remained stubbornly in place now for almost 30 years.
So, when Sutt and Laney hopped in the car last week to go and celebrate with Nana and Co., Brian, myself, and Ajay may have not hopped in the car with them, but our love sure did. (I’m lucky to be married to a man who loves his step children as his own, and has embraced the paternal side of their family with open arms.)
Marriage and divorce have been two of the greatest teachers I’ve ever had- they have taught me that sometimes a bloodline means nothing- while a love line means everything.
When I fell in love with Brian, Nana and Gigi loved him too- and when we brought Ajay into the world, they celebrated this new child with us and immediately made room for him on the family tree of their heart. In fact, on one occasion, when I sent a framed photo of Sutter and Laney off to Nana and Gigi Kathy as gifts, I soon after received a hand written thank you note that contained a loving admonishment that the next picture I sent better have Ajay in it too.
The whole fam damily is full of this same kind of non-denominational love that just hangs on once it’s put in place… and at the ripe old age of 95, Nana is the card carrying matriarch to all of them…. So thank you, Nana, for creating this ‘stick to your ribs’ kind of love that has been such a source of goodness to me and mine. I cherish this patchwork quilt of love we have created from our supposedly ‘broken’ and ‘blended’ family – it may be unconventional, but it is real- and at the end of the day, real is what matters.
When someone, who does not have to love us- chooses to anyway- it sends a special kind of ripple out into the universe…. One that reaches into places that other kinds of love cannot.
Happy Birthday Nana… thank you for always giving your love away, even when you didn’t have to… and thank you for creating a family that has followed your lead and always done the same.
If that is not the mark of a well-lived life, I simply do not know what is.