This week, I am reflecting on some of the heroes in my life, those people who I admire and try to emulate in my own small way. Most of my heroes are everyday people; saints who have touched me down deep and who would probably blush at the designation.
It seems only in the last few years that Gran has not been taller than me. When did she shrink? When did I grow? Just yesterday, she asked me how old I would be at my next birthday, and when I replied, my aunt said, “no!” As my daughter played on the floor in the middle of the triangle the three of us formed, I got a sense of how very transient this life is, and yet, how very much it impacts us.

In the same way, the people in our lives impact us, and we impact those around us. Gran has been a hero in my life since I can remember. When I was a wee lass, it was to her that I ran, whether she was coming to visit or there to kiss a boo-boo. As I got older, I came to appreciate the humanity in my grandmother and at some point around junior high, I realized that this amazing woman was in my family! Not everyone is blessed with a grandma like mine, and I wish I could share her with everyone.

In college, she was the source of countless emergency relief packages, crammed full of homemade cookies (that became the hot item in my dorm). She hosted me and whichever roommate I brought along when I needed a place to rest. Always, her home has been my haven, my safe place, my refuge. Always, there has been unconditional love and unrestricted access to hugs and sweets and homemade treats. Always, she has preached with her actions and been an example of who I want to be when I grow up.

Since I’ve been an “adult,” I’ve come to appreciate my relationship with Gran in a whole new way. She’s become my confidant and my consultant. She’s a source of stain-removal tips and a sure resource for last-minute recipes. Her tips and tricks should be gathered in a book, and her common sense hearkens back to a time when life was simpler, if less technological. She can’t find her way around a computer (though she claims she wishes she could) and she finds herself tired more often now.

Even as I watch her grow older, and I realize that someday I will stand there beside her casket, I can’t help but remember what she has always said about old age. “I only feel sixteen inside!” Usually, this phrase is uttered when she’s collapsed exhausted on some flat surface, bemoaning the limits of old age. But in those limits, she has found cause for reflection, and wisdom comes with a price tag of experience, it seems.

Grandma represents an era that will end soon. She grew up in a time we’ve all but forgotten, that is ensconced in must-read novels and quaint old TV shows. She has continued on to see a time that is maybe not what she envisioned. She’s happily married for the second time, having been a widow for ten years before finding this twilight love.

Grandma has always been staunch in her beliefs. She disapproves. She voices it. But she loves you anyway. I have come full-circle, from being in the throes of my wayward youth to my converted Catholic self. Grandma has been there with me the entire journey, loving me all the way. She might have had judgment on my actions, but she did not voice them. Instead, I believe she prayed, long and hard. I believe she gave her worries to the Lord, and I believe too that seeing me married in the Catholic Church – me, who had no use for the convention of marriage nor the silliness of organized religion! – must have been a moment of thanksgiving for her. When I’ve spoken with her about my need for prayer, I can hear tears in her voice.

I understand those tears. I know just where they come from, because they well up in me when I see my daughter trying to do the sign of the cross. It is those tears that touch me the most, because they are a sign of just how much I am loved by this hero of mine.