A Different Kind of Family

My Grannydaddy joined my Granny on the other side on August 4th. It had been almost 3 years since they had been together, the longest they ever spent apart from each other, even when he was deployed to Vietnam in the 70s. The time he spent without her was excruciating for my Grannydaddy and we all knew that he longed to be with her from the moment she left this world and went to the next. He stayed and did what he needed to do to make sure those of us he left behind wouldn’t have any troubles after he was gone, and once he knew we would be okay, he started making his way back to his beloved’s side.

Their love was a rare one, something straight out of a book, something most of us long for but know we’ll never experience. They met when they were 10 and 12 years old, married at 17 and 19, and lived their lives with and for each other. They traveled the world, thanks to the Air Force and my Granny’s sense of adventure. My Grannydaddy never denied her the joy of travel, even if it meant only an afternoon drive down a new country road. I have many memories of sailing through the rural southeast in the dark in the plush back seat of my Grannydaddy’s Mercury Grand Marquis.

When he retired from the Air Force, he brought my Granny to North Carolina, a dream she had since reading about the Blue Ridge Mountains in a book when she was a little girl in the Appalachian mountains of Alabama. It was to this place, in North Carolina, that our family would migrate over the years, mostly thanks to loss and heartbreak. But thanks to my Grannydaddy and Granny, it was here that our little family would find love – a kind of love that I’ve learned is almost unheard of. People don’t understand our family because we are fiercely supportive, affectionate, unconditionally accepting, and resilient.

My mom moved here in 2003 when my dad left her for someone else after 26 years of marriage. She had to leave her home, walk away from a successful career, and start over in a new town with new friends, no home, and having never been single. My grandparents immediately said, “Yes, just get here. Come home.”

I moved to North Carolina in 2010 thanks to the recession of 2008-2009 after losing my job and then my partner at the time. I had a 6 month old baby, no job, and $400 to my name. My mom did the same thing for me, opening her home to us without question or hesitation.

That’s the legacy of love and family my grandparents created for our family. There was never any proving oneself, competing, wondering about love – it was always there, warm and safe and unrelenting. To the very end, my grandparents loved each other and showered everyone in the family with their love. It was palpable and gave all of us a soft, safe place to land and a solid, dependable place from which to launch. The affection was unreserved and abundant.

When I’m around other people’s families it’s odd to me to see the “standards” that some people have to meet in order to be accepted or supported. Interactions are formal, based in “that’s-how-it’s-been-for-generations” traditions, and stunted. I’ve learned over the years that those types of families are more common than the one I grew up in. I have friends with tender, welcoming families, and it’s likely the fact that our families are similar in values and behaviors that contributed to our friendships. But I see that these family characteristics are exceptional, and for that I’m all the more cognizant of the blessings my grandparents bestowed upon me and everyone else fortunate enough to be called family.

We will inter both my Granny and Grannydaddy together in a couple of days. Their ashes will rest at the National Cemetery nearby, with my Grannydaddy receiving full military honors and my adventurous and brave Granny spending the rest of eternity with a view of the North Carolina hills.

My Grannydaddy’s obituary is here.

My Granny’s obituary is here.

One thought on “A Different Kind of Family

  1. What a wonderful look back. Seeing and knowing where you came from really makes a difference in who we – each and everyone- are. God bless.


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