My grandmother passed away when I was only eight. She didn’t speak a word of English. But I knew she loved me. It was the cookies that gave her away. She used to have a box of butter cookies from the local bakery at the ready every time I came to visit. My favorites were the ones with the cherry in the middle. I would reach into the box and pull out just that one stack — and leave the rest of box behind.
When we would leave her house for the evening, I’d leave almost a full box. Yet somehow, come the following week, there would be a fresh one waiting. She was a thin woman and there was no way she finished off all of those cookies. Not even with my grandfather’s help. And yet, I could count on a new box of cookies waiting for me every time we came to visit. She knew which cookies in the box I wanted and looked forward to. And looking back on it, I am so touched by my grandmother’s generosity. Every time I go to a bakery that has those cookies, I make sure to buy one and think fondly of my grandmother each time.
The same goes for my grandfather. We didn’t need spoken words between us. Our connecting point turned out to be Bing cherries. He was a gardener and drove this big van. From time to time, he’d take me and my sister to a cherry farm to gather fresh cherries by the bucket. We would sit in the back and just roll around from wall to wall in that van. It was so much fun. He would let us climb up on the ladder and pick to our heart’s content. Life with grandpa was a bowl of cherries for sure.
My daughter doesn’t have that language barrier with my parents, but I still see the same quiet kind of love between them. I see a big point of connection between them watching TV mystery shows. You can be sure each time we go to her house she has recorded some special Monk episodes to watch with Emma. She and Emma sit there in front of the TV together and compare notes. I hang back and let them have that quiet, sometimes silent communication.
And my dad — he’s big on playing the ukulele. He often sits in the front room of my parent’s house quietly strumming away. Emma will sometimes go and just sit quietly listening to my dad play. Even though they don’t always talk, I can tell there is a growing bond between them.
I’m continually fascinated and struck by this quiet language that grandparents have. They’ve settled in to a feeling that kids just love to be around. It’s soft, patient, kind. There isn’t expectation, or disappointment. Where were these people hiding when they were raising us? With Grandparents’ Day coming up, I’m reminded that we do an awful lot of talking as parents. Grandparents and their ways can remind us to slow down a bit. Quiet down a bit. Love is what binds us together. Words are optional.