Today is bittersweet. The new book, Chicken Soup for the Soul: Grandparents, is released. It’s my first time contributing to a Chicken Soup book, but I hope it’s not the last. The bittersweet part: I wrote about meeting my grandmother (my birth mother’s mother), but she passed away last week. I don’t have the life-long memories shared by the rest of her family. But we did share some special moments.
I visited her twice last year, in January and May. I’ll never forget that first meeting. She took my hands in hers and stared at me, saying “It’s my Jeannie” (her daughter, my birth mother). It was amazing to spend time with her and hear stories of my mother and the rest of her family. My grandmother’s own story was quite astounding. She was one of fourteen children, had my mother at age fourteen, worked at the Navy yard on the USS Missouri (Mighty Mo) while her husband served overseas, and opened a restaurant that bore her name. Her favorite thing on the menu also bore her name, the Janet Burger.
You never know what will happen, what emotions will surface, when members of a birth family meet the adoptee. I was nervous about this meeting. But she was so warm and welcoming, as have been all the family members. It seems that at 92 years old, she was trying to make a good impression on me. I understood she was quite a character. I heard stories of her cursing and causing an uproar in public places when things didn’t go her way. But the woman I met was kind and patient, without a single curse for anyone. Her family suggested I hang around her more often.
Although it would have been great to spend more time together, I am so thankful for the time we had. I never thought I would meet any members of my birth families. But I have been blessed to meet so many. All of them have been open to knowing me. Perhaps my family warned them that I often say the wrong thing at the wrong time. I’ve been told my super power is making people mad (not exactly those words, but I had to write appropriately for a public blog). Maybe I have a little of my grandmother in me. Together we were on our best behavior.
All my life, if there was one feature about me I could change, it would be my neck. It’s thick with no chin. Certain ways I turn my head, my face disappears into it. I even looked into plastic surgery several years ago. But last year I found out where that neck came from. Looking at me, it’s easy to see my mother. And my grandmother was so thrilled when she finally laid eyes on me. She said it was like having a little bit of her Jeannie again, who passed away eighteen years ago.
Although my grandmother is gone, she has left me with aunts and uncles and cousins and a brother and so many more relatives. It’s so cool to have a brother! I look forward to getting to know them better and hearing more stories of this grandmother who loved me sight unseen.