Growing Up Without Grandparents
I never knew any of my grandparents. I got to meet my maternal grandfather once, but he had Alzheimer's and it was hard for him to figure out who I was and for me to get to know him. But the rest of my grandparents, I never met. They've all passed away, so I will never get a chance to know them. Truly know them, as grandparents, but also to see them as parents to my parents. It's weird to think about my parents as someone's children, if that makes sense. Because I've never seen them in that capacity.
And it makes me wonder - was one of my grandparents left-handed like me? Did they like to write? Did they suffer from anxiety and depression, too? Did they have funny stories about my parents as children? What traits, if any, did I inherit from them? Do they have my eyes or my nose? Were they the bake chocolate chip cookies type, or the tough love and stern gruffness type? Would there be big bear hugs or stilted conversations?
My husband has a close family. He's known his grandparents and uncles and aunts and cousins. I think he has a good sense of who he is in the world and where he came from. For me, it's just a void. Like, my world and family started with my parents and there was nothing before that. Of course, I know that's not true, but... sometimes it feels that way.
My parents weren't very close to their parents for various reasons. It's not my story to tell. But it made it hard for me to relate to movies and TV shows with the big family gatherings and everyone laughing and passing the potatoes. One time in middle school, I had to make a family tree for Spanish class. It was to help us practice our vocabulary words for family members. And I just made one up, adding random names here and there. It felt like a game or a story instead of real life because they weren't real people to me. I barely even know what they look like or how many siblings they had or what their childhoods were like. There's just... nothing written on those pages for me.
It made me wonder about my own identity. I think strong family ties, going back generations, is really great if you have it. I envy you that. But who am I? Not in relation to anyone else, but me, myself. Who is Mia? It's been 36 years and I don't truly know the answer. But maybe we never do and never will. We are who we say we are. We are what life makes us, what our choices make us, what our intentions make us.
If I can choose who I am, I choose to be:
A person who quietly listens and wholeheartedly loves.
A writer who falls in love with words over and over again every single day.
The person who never wants to stop learning, always inhaling and absorbing knowledge and books and courses.
Someone who finds beauty everywhere - even the broken places.
A passionate, caring, sensitive person.
Someone who can take pleasure in the smallest of ways - 5 minutes of silence, a warm cup of coffee, a soft blanket in a dark room, holding the hands of my husband and children - and pack it into every nook and cranny of life.
I can be whoever I want to be. That's kind of refreshing. In today's world, everyone always wants to put you in a box. Whatever and whoever you were when they met you - that's it. You get no leeway, no flexibility, no room to grow. I'm constantly evolving and changing in certain ways and remaining 100% steadfast in others. I change my mind. I start things and sometimes finish them. I don't think any of us have to conform to this notion. Be who you are. Figure shit out. Make mistakes. Change your mind 100 times and change it back again even more. Who cares? Maybe your family has always been THIS and but you know to your core you're really THAT. Go for it. People who love you will make space for you and who you are.
But I digress. Family doesn't come from ancestry. Not always. Your identity isn't based on naming your lineage. Maybe your family tree has real people on it for prior generations. I've made peace with not having those things. It's all I've known. And that's OK. I don't have to have grandparents to know who I am.
I've rambled a lot in this piece. But my point is this: Keep your family close (if you can); know each other while you still have time; save stories and photos and memories to pass on to your children; but know that you will find your way in life no matter what.