I believe my grandparents were my greatest teachers
Growing up I was fortunate enough to have my grandparents live right next door and I saw them every single day. My nana made my brother and I breakfast every morning before school and had a snack waiting for us every day after school until I went to college. I use the term “snack” lightly. Nana’s snacks consisted of homemade French fries cooked in a cast iron skillet, waffles, handmade ravioli, pizza and more. My Nana was the best cook in the world. Their house was small, but always so warm. It was the oasis of my childhood. My grandparents taught me by example about a lot of things: unconditional love, generosity, kindness and gratitude. My grandfather was the predominant father figure in my life and he taught me things like: how to change the oil in my car, how to be responsible with money, the importance of hard work, the importance of a good education, not to procrastinate, the importance of exercise and how to say the Rosary. In my teenage years, he would often get right in my face and repeat things which he wanted drilled into my subconscious like the following:, “Christine, any idiot can get pregnant-it’s so easy-it’s the easiest thing in the world-the trick is not to.”
My grandparents lived a very simple life. They had two or three sets of clothes, an old beater of a car and they never went out to eat. There was always enough food for the unexpected visitor and there was almost always an unexpected visitor. I was under the illusion that my grandparents were fine financially because they were so generous. They were the most generous people I’ve ever known. When they passed away they had a mere $200 in the bank, but all their bills were paid. They never complained about not having enough or about not getting enough. My Nana told me once when she was 75 that she was so happy living in the country. She said,” I wake up every morning and I get to hear the first bird.” Her eyes were light with joy. The first bird! They loved their life in New Hampshire. It was such a contrast from the projects of Somerville where they had lived before. Not a day went by that they weren’t grateful.
When my grandparents died it was incredibly painful. Nana died how she wanted, on her divan where she had listened to the first bird. My grandfather died unexpectedly two weeks later. It was devastating, yet it was a turning point in my life. Their death spurred me on to become a teacher. It was the thought of what would’ve made them proud that made me want to become a better person. I can’t imagine the person I’d have become without having had them in my life. I told my grandfather right before he died that he was my brother’s hero. I only regret that I never told him that he was mine as well.