Most of my childhood summers was spent in Orange County where numerous aunts, uncles and cousins lived. Trips to Disneyland, Sea World and spending time on the numerous California beaches were commonplace as a kid. Admittedly, I was spoiled. California has always had a special place in my heart.
When I was a kid my Dad applied and was offered a job in the Walt Disney Co. in Southern California. As a kid the prospect of moving to Disneyland was EXTREMELY exciting. Not only would I be closer to some of my cousins, but I would also be closer to my Uncle George, Aunt Mary and Aunt Helen who I absolutely loved. They all loved us kids like their own grandkids. I have countless cherished memories of them all.
But, my Dad ended up declining the offer.
Of all my siblings I was probably the most upset about this, because not only were we not moving to Disneyland, but I wasn’t getting away from the snow I absolutely hated. I might have been a tad disappointed in my Dad’s decision to turndown Disney … to say the least. But, then again, I was a kid, what did I know?
And, my Dad has his reasons.
The biggest reason was that he didn’t want to move to far from my Grandparents. My parents always felt it was important for us kids to be close to them. Both grandparents lived in the Salt Lake City area and they it would be difficult to remove themselves from them even if there was family awaiting us in Southern California.
While this was difficult to understand as a kid, retrospectively I admire that decision by my parents. I would have missed out on a lot of things. Not, just of many birthdays, family celebrations, events and shared time together, but the closeness I have felt with each grandparent as well as aunt, uncle and cousin.
The grandparent that I got the closet to was my Grandma Hansen. We’ve always clicked ever since I can remember. She only lived a couple miles away and as kids my sisters and I would spend weekends with my Grandma and Grandpa. On Saturdays we would enjoy Grandpa’s banana cakes and while we went out to “help” my Grandpa out in his workshop my Grandma would make lunch that included a sandwich and a plethora of cheese and pickles.
My Grandma shows her love in many ways, but I am convinced it is manifested best in the form of cheese and pickles. For birthdays I don’t get candy or money, I get pickles. And, I couldn’t be happier about the gift because I know it’s a gift of the heart rooted in memories.
After the passing of my Grandpa nearly 18 years ago our relationship got closer. Since my Grandpa, the master craftsmen, was no longer around, the duties around the house moved to my Dad, myself and my brothers. Year round we would help with shoveling, raking, yard work and the like. Of course each job would end with a sandwich and a side of pickles and cheese.
Unlike when we were kids, she wouldn’t turn cartoons on for us while we ate. We sat there with my her eating our lunch as she peeled and ate an apple. Our conversations would take us through time back to growing up in Price, living in Greece and raising my Dad and Aunts to the current events of the time and how to fix the problems of the world. These conversations would be serious, but more often than not they would end up in laughter.
My appreciation for my Grandma deepened and she became quite literally my best friend. I would do anything for her and I know she would do anything for me. But, more than that she believed in me and more than anything I needed that reassurance in my life at that time. A time where I had a hard time believing in myself and my abilities. She made me understand how proud she was of me and that I could do anything I wanted to. She helped give my dreams wings.
After a decade of living on her own, my Grandma decided to move in with us. We merged our households. We converted the master bedroom into a mother-in-law suite so she could still enjoy her independence, while enjoying living in a family setting again. The past eight years haven’t been anything but a dream having her even closer. Not only do we enjoy her each day, but she’s also able to enjoy her great grandkids even more.
As we celebrate my Grandma’s 88th birthday today, I look back at the moments we’ve made and thank God that my Dad didn’t decide to work for the mouse nearly 25 years ago. This is where I am suppose to be. And, to imagine that I would miss out out that bond I’ve developed with my Grandma makes me even more appreciative of that decision.
My Grandma is my best friend. She makes me smile each day. She believes in me and tells me that every day. She is the first one to tell me how much she loves me and shows that in offerings of cheese and pickles. Of course those offerings also come in the form of candy bars, cookies, gum or chocolate cake. But, they are in the same because they come from the heart.
Happy Birthday Grandma! I love you. Always have, always will!