My Nana is in the hospital. She was taken to the ER on Tuesday because of severe chest/abdominal pains. The doctors ruled out any heart problems and felt like it was her gall bladder and sent her to the nearby town to a bigger hospital to check it out and possibly do surgery. It turns out it was her pancreas. And she is fairly sick, but doing better. They are positive she is on the mend and will make a full recovery.
Before I heard that Nana was fine, I had a few minor panic attacks at the thought of something bad happening to her. She is, after all, 86 years old and I guess, at that age, any type of illness or surgery is a risk. And I freaked out a bit. Reality tells us that one day, if all goes according to plan, we will lose our parents and grandparents. Logically, I know this, but really, I can't imagine my life without her. I don't see her all the time anymore and we don't talk on the phone once a week like we did when I was single (she and my mom live together, so it's not like we aren't in touch...it's just not like it used to be), but Nana is such a big part of my life, whether she's there or not. Nana is like the security blanket you tote to school, but never take it out of your backpack, because you are way too grown up to need a security blanket. But it's there. And you feel safe knowing that, at any moment, if you felt sad or sick or hurt, you could grab it and snuggle up to it and know that all was right with the world.
A lot of people aren't close with their grandparents. To a lot of people, grandparents are old people in the background of their lives. They see them a few times a year when their parents force them to visit. To those people, grandparents are a check in a birthday card or something to be tolerated. Not my Nana. She is a real presence in my life. I can talk to her like she is my friend. She will sit on the back porch, have a vodka tonic with you and visit about the little things in life. Or the big things. Whatever is on your mind, you can say it to Nana. She doesn't judge anyone. She may quietly disapprove, and you may know that she disapproves, but you know she loves you anyway.
When I was in college, I started staying with Nana and Papa on the weekends I came home. I know they thought I was wild and loud and crazy. I was. I remember Papa saying one time "My, you are loud." I think I drove him a little bit crazy, but he was nothing but kind to me. And Nana seemed to like it when I was there. One time, I had a few friends over...we had a few too many drinks and I went to bed, leaving all the lights on, doors open and mess in the kitchen. It was disrespectful of me and I am ashamed to have treated my Nana's house like that, but I was 22 years old and an emotional wreck most of the time and usually drank way too much to make good decisions. You know what Nana said to me? She told me that Papa wasn't too pleased about all the unlocked doors, but Nana just said "You know, this house has needed a good party." That's so Nana. She loves music, loves to dance and loves a good party. You would never catch her drinking too much or dancing on tables or hanging from the pergola outside her house, but she'll darn sure be there watching us, laughing and shaking her little hips to the music. One Christmas night, my siblings (and my mother!) and I stayed up until about 3 in the morning, singing (yelling) karaoke, drinking beer and being silly. Nana was in her bed and we were a little worried about what she was going to say about being awakened 400 times in the middle of the night. You know what she said? "I couldn't decide whether to come tell you to be quiet or to come join you!" She's a trooper. She puts up with all of us kids now that Mom lives with her and I know, at times, that's not easy. There are 4 grown kids, 8 if you include spouses, and 6 babies...it gets wild. And she probably gets tired of it. But she just hangs right in there, checking up on us, helping us with kids, making snacks, and joining in the fun here and there.
A lot of women who are 86 years old wear polyester pantsuits and SAS shoes and sit around watching quilting shows or scooting around on a walker. Not my Nana. She shops at Chico's and wears sassy, in style clothes. She wears Stuart Weitzman heels to church and white Keds around the house. (I will never, ever see a pair of narrow, white canvas Keds without thinking of my Nana.) She wears Tommy Hilfiger jeans because she likes the way they fit. She has cute jewelry and wears make up every day (she "puts her face on" at 9:30 every morning.) She goes to art classes and yoga when they offer it and is involved in several service organizations and goes out to eat lunch every day. She still plays golf and has friends and volunteers at her church. She has her hair done once a week at the local beauty parlor. Friday at 1:30 unless there is a special occasion. She has her nails done and is perfectly groomed at all times.
I wish I could be like Nana when I grow up. She is the classiest lady I know. She doesn't cuss, she doesn't gossip, she doesn't overeat, over drink or spend money impulsively. She is kind and gentle and quietly strong. I can never measure up to her, but I do like to keep my pantry stocked and have backup toothbrushes for guests, just like Nana. She is an amazing person.
And Nana, when you get home, I hope Mom makes you read this. Because I want to tell you this: Thank you. Thank you for saving me. I know it sounds dramatic and stupid, but there were times I didn't want to go on with life anymore and when I would imagine who would care if I was gone, I always saw your face. Thank you for providing me with a safe, secure place to be. Thanks for always loving me just the way I am, even when you don't get why I'm the way I am. Thank you for making me Jello and Dream Whip and letting me eat it before it set up. Thank you for taking me to the horse races with you and Papa and drink Shirley Temples and eat mozzarella sticks (for the first time!) at Howard Johnson's. Thank you for taking me to see Annie and the ballet and thank you for the braces and prom dresses and shopping trips. And for always smiling when I "forgot" a nightgown and toothbrush every time I came to spend the night and giving me one of your old gowns and a brand new toothbrush. And for sleeping with me and reading me stories at night. And for teaching me to love reading and for buying me books and then sharing your books with me when I was older. And for buying me a wedding dress even thought you didn't want me to marry that guy (not my current husband, people.) And for letting me live with you when I couldn't live at home. Thank you for filming me at the most awkward, stupid moments of my life. Thank you for being at every football game and pep assembly, watching me cheer. Thank you for making me feel important. I love you.