People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.
I will forget what my grandmother Kerma said to me during childhood. I will forget more memories of what she did during our visits. I will always remember the way I felt Thursday morning as I left her Health Center room.
“Who are you? Oh, yes, you are Kay. Marilyn’s daughter. And you are Caitlin, Kay’s daughter.” In spite of having to cite this familial connection at least six times, my grandmother’s smile lit up her corner of the world throughout our forty minute visit. After we hugged goodbye, she leaned back on her pillow, put her hand to her chest and coquettishly admonished, “Don’t do anything I wouldn’t do!” To which I replied, “Leaves me a lot of wiggle room, Grandmother! All I have to do is smile and I will get away with anything!” Such a belly laugh, coming from a tiny 105 year old lady, prompted everyone within earshot to join in!
My grandmother Kerma taught me the value of a smile and so, as I sit among the contents of six boxes-worth of her life, I harvest the way this brown-eyed lady made me feel–grateful, happy, content. The sorting and storing somehow seems less onerous; the sadness at her decline and estate dispersal remains in check.
I gathered blank address labels–some small and some large–and a pen. Three different sized clear containers stood ready for the storing. The 14″x11″x3″ rectangle will hold the old photographs and large clippings; the 14″x7″x5″ box will hold letters and small clippings; the 11″x6″x3″ container will hold small photographs. I have three containers of each size labeled either 1900-1954, 1955-1984 or 1984-2010. These time frames correspond roughly to the three generations of mementos that I have before me.
The letters have been studied and grouped by date, and sometimes read one more time before being nestled in the appropriate box. Photographs have been examined, and notes made to find out just who is the man in the second row, third from the right. High school graduation programs have been poured over to spot Grandmother’s name and a hush fell in my brain when I touched my parent’s wedding invitation. The vases, plates and odd items have been unwrapped, inventoried and wrapped again, and returned to the moving boxes–which now bear labels declaring their contents.
When my siblings arrive for Thanksgiving we will be able to choose where we start remembering. Treasures can be dispersed yet again as my brothers return home. Then all of us will have tokens of Kerma’s life to help summon up the way she made us feel: content, happy and grateful for a smile.