Last Sunday was Grandparent’s day, which, let’s be real, is probably a Hallmark holiday. But, I’m Catholic and it doesn’t take much of an excuse to get me to celebrate, so that’s just that.
My father had a set of parents. His mother died when I was young, so young that memories of the news of her death and the funeral come in snapshots or short seconds-long videos-of-memory, nothing more. Shortly after that, my father’s father moved states and states away, so I have few memories of him, either. Actually, I really only have one. For the sake of discussion: he was over at my house for probably a family gathering or birthday party. I (around five years old, mind you) felt obliged to entertain/ host well, so I sat on his lap and we talked about foods you eat for breakfast as well as those you don’t eat for breakfast. (Cough.) After awhile I was like, “my work here is complete,” so I hopped down. (Upon reflection, have my discussion skills progressed since then??)
States away, he met and married a woman who writes me beautiful, caring cards on my birthday and sends postage stamps for the holidays. I love her, but from afar.
My mother also had a set of parents. Her father died when she was young, though, so I’ve only met him through photos and the ample happy stories of his existence. My mother’s mother, my grandmother, then, is the only grandparent who actively participated in my life as I grew up. She was the one who came to every piano recital, every play (even if stupid! even if only hosted in a living room!), every state fair. She was the one who taught me to dance. She’s the one with whom I share the most experiences, the most memories.
When I was being a camp counselor a few weeks back, I was riding on a bus with a bunch of packed-in girls. Somehow we started talking about our First Communions, the memories they had, what they wore, what people said to them. I was surprised at how much they could remember until I recalled that, you know, I could remember quite a bit, too. I remember my dress–a hand-me-down from a cousin twice removed–and how I wore gloves and my brand new Mary Janes with the silver clasp in the center of the strap instead of on the side of the shoe. I received several gifts, but the ones I remember most vividly were two. First, a rosary of fake pearls on a silver chain which I used for a few years in high school until it broke apart one day. Secondly, a Bible from my grandmother. That Bible was not a kid-Bible with pictures and simplified words, but a legit one, the kind grown-ups use with all the books (all of them! Holla at Judith and Tobit!) and the tiny notes in the margin and the stories sometimes withheld from kid-versions (“and he begot him who begot this other one who begot…”).
A few days after I received the Bible, my father gave me a set of highlighters (which, in all honestly, I kind of abused and used to over-highlight) and he bought a set of sticky-tabs from a local Bible bookstore and he placed the tabs with all of the books of the Bible on the correct page, so I could turn to each book with more ease.
The point of many religious items is, of course, not the item itself. So, for example: church buildings are fine and good and lovely, but the people inside are what matter. Lighting candles in a church is dandy and fun, but the prayers are the important part. Similarly, that particular Bible wasn’t as important as the fact that God speaks through scripture, I know, I know.
But, there’s still something about the physical, isn’t there? There’s still something about the smell of candles and incense and exhaustion at midnight mass that can silence you. There’s something about dipping fingers into the baptismal font to remind your heart: God chose you, kiddo.
There’s something nice about the Bible, too. The navy zip-pouch where I store the Bible is slowly dying the Bible’s white cover. The pages will open directly to some of my favorite parts–John 10 or Nehemiah–almost like it knows me.
That one Bible is heavy, though. Not super heavy, but heavy enough that I bought a different one a few years back for traveling. Lighter and more compact (smaller font, etc), the newer Bible became the one I used more and more frequently until I moved the one from my grandmother into the basement for more space. Until, that is, I misplaced the travel Bible a few days before camp. Knowing I wanted a Bible while away, I walked to the basement and retrieved the one from my grandmother from the lineup of other books.
When the girls on the bus talked about their First Communions, I thought about mine, too, and the Bible from my grandmother, and then my grandmother herself, deceased for almost a decade now. I thanked them for reminding me that this was one of the few gifts I have from my grandmother–a gift of faith.
Then I came home.
To the destroyed basement. The Bible I took to camp would have been the first in line for the dumpster, for sure, as it would have been submerged in the sewer-water and ruined.
But, it wasn’t, it was safe with me, a gift from my grandmother for my spiritual journey.
That’s what I’ve been thinking about in this week of grandparents–how grandparents can pass on a faith.
Now, a certain blog reader, Andrew, was like, “Only your mom and I read your blog”
And I was like, “SOMETIMES CAITLIN READS IT, TOO,” so there.
I’ve got a question for ya. Today’s question for ANDREW and maybe CAITLIN and maybe OTHER PEOPLE WHO ANDREW DOESN’T EVEN KNOW ABOUT is this: how have your grandparents influenced your faith journey?
I’d honestly love love to learn about this. Because I’m sure it’s a beautiful story.