We were gathered with friends at the Old Chelsea Pub on the weekend. Beth mentioned she had chatted with her nephew, Sam, on skype. He and his parents are far away in Saudi Arabia. Sam was lovely, as usual, and doing well and Beth mentioned the distance. We wanted to assure her she would grow up with a special relationship with him. We were all sure of it, we agreed, and reminisced about how aunties are close, no matter how far away or how few times you see them. We talked about how we somehow grew up knowing they were extra special to us and we were extra special to them.
It's not just for aunties either. It's true for uncles, grandfathers and grandmas. I was smitten with my grandma when I was little. I loved her, looked up to her, felt warm and cozy with her. I absorbed every word out of her mouth - and they were always encouraging words about being smart and beautiful, about what I might become and how I was fully able. In the first two decades of my life we visited her every couple of months and she visited us about about once a year. We spent a few weeks of the summer together at our family cottage. We didn't see her every day and she was about a three hour drive away. But we were tight.
She started showing early signs of Alzheimer's when I was about twelve. That was very sad - too difficult for me to talk about, really.
But what I think about is how still today my grandmother's voice floats around in my head. Everything she taught me got into me. When I write, I hear her encouraging me to write. When I peel an apple or potato, I picture her hands doing the same thing. When I enjoy working outside, I think of her outdoorsy leg muscles and how she wrapped herself in her husband's old plaid jackets. When things happen that would have made her giggle, I can hear her laugh and see her eyes disappear from laughing really hard. Heck, I even think of her when we pass road kill - roadkill broke her heart.
Just yesterday Melissa mentioned that when she goes downstairs in the wee hours of the morning, when it's still dark out, and only the stove light is on, she thinks of Grandma. Sometimes we're not even sure why, we just think of Grandma.
That's influence. During Grandma visits, she poured herself into us (our parents and siblings do the same thing with Isaac). And even now, even though she's not with us anymore, her influence carries on.