The Little Lady Who Taught Me How to Love

       Learning How to Love

I have written before about my difficult childhood.  And even though it was extremely challenging at times, I still have many very good memories of my growing up years. My father loved the river, and so we spent a lot of time in the boat, or at the river visiting with friends who would camp there several weeks every summer. We also traveled a good bit, visiting that same family, or other friends and family for the weekend. We had people over fairly often, and went to tons of cookouts and get togethers with friends. I didn’t have an idyllic childhood by any stretch of the imagination, but there were a lot of good times.

One thing that was missing from my childhood was affection. Now, I knew without a doubt that there were people who loved me. I just didn’t come from an affectionate line of people! That family who camped at the river every year was affectionate though. I remember how much I loved to be with them. Every time we saw them again, the man and woman, who were almost old enough to be my grandparents, would grab me up in the biggest bear hugs. Especially the man, whom I called Mr. Paul. He always acted so glad to see me, and he hugged me so tight. I loved it.

Their kids, who were all at least 10 years older than me, were affectionate as well. I loved going to visit their family. So many hugs. They had four children, all married, and we would all gather and eat and visit. It was like Heaven for this affection starved, lonely only girl.Then, Mr. Paul passed away. Then his wife, Mrs. Bea, passed away. But I will never forget their hugs and their big smiles when they would see me.

Granny

Granny loved Christmas as much as any child I ever knew.

It was this lonely only girl who was soon to be welcomed by a family with only boys, no daughters. They would become my in-laws within just a couple of years. They loved me too. I spent every moment I could at their house, because they so obviously wanted me there. My mother in law would ask every day if I was eating supper at their house. If I said no, she was disappointed. I felt loved, but that affection I longed for was still missing. Enter Granny.

       Granny was my mother in law’s mother. She lived in California, but she spent a few months here every spring.    Since I had begun dating Andy in January,I had not yet met Granny. All that would change in April of 1983. Granny  had come for her visit, and I was going over to meet her. I loved her immediately. She was so sweet! Little did I know that night how she would change my life.

  After my parents separated, I began spending even more time with my future in-laws. And in    the spring of 1984, Granny came back for another visit. I was so excited. I couldn’t wait to  spend time with her again. She was just so encouraging. But yet again, when May came, she  headed back to California. I missed her when she was gone. But God had a plan…

Granny

She rarely looked so serious. She was nearly always smiling.

 In June of 1986, the same month my father was killed in a car accident, Granny moved here to  stay. She lived right next door to my in-laws. Over the next several years, I would spend  significant time with her. When we lived in another town, she and I talked on the phone at least once a week. (That was when you still had to pay for long distance charges on a phone that was attached to the wall!!) Once we were able to move back home, Granny and I spoke more than once a day, every day. And we hung out all the time. Her house was my favorite place to be.  I felt completely comfortable and loved when I was with her. She had a way of making everybody feel special. And she had the thing I needed most – affection.

Granny was the most affectionate person I have personally ever known. At first, it was hard for me.

I was used to getting hugs when you left a friend’s house whom you wouldn’t see again for a while, or before bed, or maybe from an aunt or uncle at a family reunion. But that was it.

Granny…she hugged you ALL THE TIME. She didn’t need a reason!! And it wasn’t just an air hug. NO, she stopped you, all five feet and one inch of her, and she hugged you real tight and said with as much feeling as she could, “I love you!!” Then another big squeeze and then you could keep walking. I remember many, many times I would be heading from her family room to her kitchen, and she would catch me in the dining room halfway in between. I got so many hugs from Granny in her little house.

She filled up my love tank in ways it had never been filled before. I don’t know if she knew how much I needed it, but I suspect she did. She knew my living situation. And she took it upon herself to love on me. Granny taught me that stopping in the hallway or on the porch or right in the middle of cooking supper is a perfect time for a hug. And that saying, “I love you”, doesn’t have to feel weird. It can be perfectly normal.

Before Granny, I had no idea what it felt like be loved in a physical, tangible way. Her hugs slowly wore away a hard exterior, formed from years of protecting my self from hurt. I wasn’t afraid of Granny. I trusted her completely. She never hurt me like so many adults had before.

Granny passed away on January 10, 1997. We knew it was coming, but that didn’t make it easier. Her funeral was truly a celebration of her life. Granny had loved many and she had loved us well. We sat around in her house, telling funny stories and looking at pictures until the wee hours. And crying. I would cry for Granny for a long time to come.

She was always the first one to call me on my birthday, and for years I cried on my birthday. I missed hearing her voice so much. At Christmastime, she always answered the telephone, “Merry Christmas!” I can still hear her. Her voice rings in my ears even now.  So many things about her stay with me…the way she said, “Hello” when she answered the phone; the way she laughed at stuff on television; her absolute love of ice skating and the HOURS we spent watching it together; her love of sweets and how happy it made her when I brought over some cookies I had made; her love of the Macy’s Day Parade on television; the way she found the best in everybody; the way she left her Christmas tree lights on 24 hours a day all during Christmastime; and all the stories she told of growing up, riding in a covered wagon from Texas to California.

Granny wasn’t a big person physically. She was short. But she had the biggest heart full of love I have ever known! And she taught me that it is perfectly okay to grab those you love in a big hug and tell them you love them. Let’s face it,we all need affection. You need it, your spouse needs it, and your kids need it. The question is, are you giving it? Are you loving on people?

Do you hug your friends at church but rarely hug your kids? Do you verbally express to your children how much you love them? Do you tuck them into bed at night with kisses and hugs? Do you snuggle them while they read to you? Do you pat a shoulder, rub a head, or touch an arm as you walk by? Do you hold hands?

I do all of those things now, although not as much as I should. I still have a ways to go to get to where Granny was. But I am thankful that God allowed me to have her as an example.

Granny

This was her chair…she sat here while we watched ice skating.

             Granny…the little lady who taught me how to love.