The One That Means The Most

I have no living Grandparents.

For many, this is a common thing, especially the older we get. But for me, I have had no living Grandparents since I was 18.

My Grandmother, Lillian, was my Father’s Mother. I remember doing puzzles, the smell of her house, trying on makeup and her recent response, acting out the entire musical version of  The Sound of Music in her living room, and Thanksgiving’s at the kids table in her large living room.

My Grandfather, Thomas, was my Mother’s Father. I remember swimming in his above ground pool, going on hikes and him teaching me about the paths deer would take, watching Disney movies on his 13″ living room TV, eating off brand Oreos in his kitchen, and catching Fireflies in his front yard.

Because the Grandparents were on different sides of the family, I don’t recall any occasion where the two were together. Christmas Eve was always spent at my Grandfather’s with my Mother’s side of the family, and Christmas Day spent at my Grandmother’s with my Father’s side of the family. Family reunions were far and few between.

I was very, very close with my Grandmother, and although I wasn’t as close with my Grandfather, I spent a decent amount of time with him. I cherished every second I spent with both of them, as they revealed a history I was unaware of.

The last time I saw my Grandmother healthy was at my High School Graduation. She and I took a picture together in her front yard, as she worked incredibly hard on her garden and wanted it to be included. It’s the last picture I ever took with her.

The last time I saw my Grandfather healthy was even before that, as they had found cancer in his jaw months before and he had been undergoing treatments.

When I left for my freshmen year of college, I felt confident with the state of my Grandparents. I was naive and expected them to be around for much longer.

November 2007, I received the call from my father. “You need to start heading home. It’s time”.

My Grandmother passed away the next day from a short illness – Liver Cancer that had gone undiagnosed.

March 2008, I pulled into my driveway after driving home from school for a short weekend break, come to find out my Grandfather has suffered a heart attack earlier that day and had passed.

The only two Grandparents I had ever known had both passed away.

I felt like an orphan. I had friends who had all 4 grandparents still living, some even with 8 Grandparents. Saying I was jealous of them is an understatement.

My family, to this day, has never felt completely whole since. You never realize how much someone means to you until their gone.

Just last year, I was packing away my childhood bedroom, preparing for my move to New York City. I had found a box of old photographs my parents had stored in my closet and started going through them. I didn’t have time to catch my breath when this picture found it’s way into my hands:


This is the only picture I have ever seen that both Grandparents are in. I have no memory of them ever being together in my lifetime. But this picture means SO much more to me than any of the pictures I have of them separate. This was the foundation of my family during my childhood, and it’s been on my desk so I can have a daily reminder of the reason why I am trying to make my dreams come true.


21 thoughts on “The One That Means The Most

  1. Its true about the older you get. I was the youngest of a huge family of kids so I never knew my grandparents who had died long before I came along…but I do have some very cool and special photos of them together that kind of piece other things together for me… Good luck on the new adventures!

  2. it’s true, grandparents are so important on so many levels. I’m sorry you lost yours early on, but so glad for your wonderful memories and appreciation of them. try to get more stories of them from the rest of your family, it helps keeping their memory alive. great picture. i’m happy you found it.

  3. I totally get this. I had three of my grandparents until my sophomore year of college, when I lost my second grandfather, and then one of my grandmothers passed away last year. It definitely doesn’t get easier just because we get older.

  4. tears. oh the tears. I just lost my last living grandparent end of March. and I was there for the very end. granted I had a lot longer time with her than you did yours, but yeah, it sucks. i’m so so glad you have that photo. and all those memories.

  5. This post really touched me. I have lost some people very close to me–unfortunately they have mostly been friends my age–I have been lucky enough to still be able to call on three of my four grandparents if I need anything today. But I can still appreciate how meaningful that photograph must be for you. What a wonderful inspiration for your dreams now. I’m sure they would both be proud, they sound like wonderfully kind people.

  6. This is so beautiful, and I’m glad you found that photo! Like you, we spent Christmas Eve with my Mom’s side of the family, and Christmas Day with my Dad’s side. (Christmas Eve was so much fun!) My father’s mother is still living, but she doesn’t know who she is anymore. It’s terribly tragic that you would lose them in that way.

    And your post have touched me in other ways. I was seeking distraction tonight. I was hoping to escape my feelings – abandon myself entirely – in great writing. But your great writing hit home. As I write this, I’m trying to forget a friend who had a heart attack on Friday, and was just disconnected from life support five hours ago. I’m trying to forget his wife and the five young children he left behind. I’m trying to forget how much pain there is the world, and how much it hurts to love.

    And since you’re my twin, I know you understand.

    • I was sitting in a cafe when you commented on this, and your words brought tears to my eyes. First of all, I’m so glad that I was able to touch you and help you through your night. It’s such an amazing feeling to know that something you created was appreciated by someone else. Second of all, I am so sorry about what you are going through. I completely understand, blog twin. If you ever need to talk to someone, I am here.

  7. I love this. I, too, lost all my living grandparents at about the same age. I feel like I had great childhood memories of them, but didn’t get those kind of memories I now wish I had–the ones where you are growing old enough to appreciate them and ask them to tell you their stories. Love that photo and I can see how it is so meaningful to you.

    • That’s exactly it – of course I appreciate the time that I had with them, but I just wish they were around more because the time would just mean so much more.

  8. I only had one grandparent alive when I was born, and she had Alzheimer’s. So I had no real memories of grandparents. When my husband and I had our children, one of the things that made me so happy was that our children had all four grandparents, still married to each other. Two nuclear families, still intact. How rare is that these days.

    Thanks for sharing your story!

    • It really is rare these days. I’m sorry you don’t have any real memories of grandparents, but I’m so glad that your children are able to have that experience and you get to see it happen!

  9. When my grandmothers died, it felt like my whole tight-knit family unraveled. I know I was lucky to have them for so long, but I really took it for granted.
    Thanks for this thoughtful post.

  10. This really hit home as my father in law was just diagnosed with cancer, after losing his wife almost 2 years ago. I have 2 young boys. I wonder what they will remember of their grandparents. I’m glad you have such fond and vivid memories of yours.

  11. I lost three of my grandparents in the years I was 7 & 8. And then my grandmother two Februaries ago (I delivered the eulogy 7 months pregnant with my twins). I miss them all…

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