Welcome to SANDYLAND!!

Hitting the Family Jackpot

To say that I grew up in a loving family is an understatement, to say the least.  I grew up in an abundance of love.  With warmth and hugs and kisses.  I hit the family jackpot!

I was surrounded constantly by my family – parents, brother, best friends – who were basically adopted siblings, cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents.  And everyone is very close.
My mom’s parents lived only two houses up the street from us and they were the foundation of my family.  They were our proverbial rock.  Walking into their home was always walking into warmth.  They had an open-door policy and their faces would light up anytime we walked into the home.  And although they lived just a few minutes away and I got to see them pretty much anytime I wanted, nearly every day, it was always a great treat to visit them.  Nannie and Grampie.
My brother and cousins and I would take turns having sleepovers at their home.  And they made each and every one of us feel special and like we were the most important people in the world.
When I was very little, not school-aged yet, my nannie would take me shopping.  My grampie would give me money before I left and my mom would joke that I would always come home with a treat and more money than I left with.
I was their favorite.  We were ALL their favorite.  And they never made us feel like we were anything less.
These people were so special – to all of us.  We would always have big family Christmas parties there; celebrating, and being in love with each other and being so thankful for having these wonderful, loving people in our lives.  Feeling truly blessed.  In the summers, we would have “wiener roasts” – a backyard barbecue of sorts on the side lawn with a fire pit and swings and making “hobo pies” out of white bread and pie filling and roasting them in the fire.  These would go to after dark and were such a treat because we kids, the cousins, got to stay up late and play and be surrounded by so much love and friendship.
My grandmother, Betty, was an incredible woman.  Bright, witty, spunky, hilarious, and hip.  And my grandfather, Brent, loved her more than words can ever express.  And the two of them loved us unconditionally.
Nannie

Catching a fish and wearing white jeans with a thick black belt – this woman was ahead of her time

I remember never wanting to disappoint them.  And even today I still try to live each day trying to impress them and making them proud from their perch in Heaven, as I know they are looking down on me.
In fact, I remember the first (and maybe only) time my grandfather yelled at me.  I was maybe 3 or 4 and I was playing with my baby cousin, Daphnie and I held her wrong or something that may have injured her – and my grampie yelled at me.  Not out of anger, but to prevent me from hurting the baby.  I was instantly heartbroken and I burst into tears, confused and ashamed that I made this man, who I loved so dearly, angry with me.  Of course, he and my grandmother cleared up the confusion but I still remember that moment vividly.
My grandmother was very, very hip.  She drove a moped!  And she loved Billy Ray Cyrus and Clint Eastwood.  And she taught me how to play (read: cheat at) cards.  If were driving with her and jokingly said “Nannie, look at the cute boy, stop the car!”, she would indeed stop the car.  And she would laugh.  If she saw cute boys she would call them over and introduce us.  Instant mortification to a teenager, but funny as hell now.  Nannie would let me put make up on her – regardless of how hideous it looked – and tell me how much she loved it.  She would welcome me with open arms when I would “run away from home” and walk on the inside of the guardrail to get to their place (my mom would always watch from the end of the driveway).  I never felt of out of place with my grandparents.
Nannie had a heart condition.  She had two heart attacks by the time she reached 40 and then had a pacemaker put in. When I was diagnosed with a heart condition when I was in my late teens I was also told I would have a pacemaker by the time I was 30 (Note 1. My family doctor was super pissed at this statement and said the specialist had no business telling a kid something like that!  Note 2.  I don’t plan on ever turning 30.).  At the time I was annoyed and confused and scared at this diagnoses.  But, although I saw it as a potential obstacle in my health and life, I also saw it as something I possibly inherited from her.  Something that made me feel just a little more bonded to her.  I have held onto that.
When Nannie was diagnosed with lung cancer in the late 90’s I was devastated.  I remember my mom told me one Friday night while my friend Kim was with me so that I could be comforted at the time of receiving this terrible news.  But Nannie was so strong.  And after having her lung removed, her cancer was gone.  I also remember that while she was in the hospital for this surgery and treatment she was telling me about this gorgeous (male) nurse or orderly that she thought I would find so cute – as she found him so cute – but then she broke the news “….but I think he might be gay.  Dammit.
Within months of having her surgery Nannie was out in the fields picking berries in the summer heat.  Something she loved to do.  She took me with her one summer when I was 15, but I was not meant for that kind of back-breaking work – or using a port-a-potty in midsummer heat (so that I complained the entire day about having to pee) and she refused to take me again.  Ever.  And she kept her word.
That fall I had an essay to write on heroes.  And in my essay I wrote that I did not believe in heroes because I saw them as mythical beings, but that the closest I could come to was my grandmother, for all that she had done and gone through, and even made mention of the berry picking right after her surgery.  (I may also have mentioned my affection for Drew Barrymore for all that she had gone through in her short life and had overcome so much.  See, lifelong follower of this girl.) My nannie was indeed heroic.
Not long after, Nannie was diagnosed with throat cancer.  Cancer so bad that there wasn’t much to do.  The cancer would win.  My nannie, however, stayed strong and fought as much as she could.  We had family gatherings and spent as much time as we could with this woman.  But sadly, devastatingly, heart-breakingly, Nannie passed away in November of 1999 at the age of 60.  A young woman still with so many years of love and adventure left to live.  And my world crumbled.
I have never experienced pain like that in my life. Ever.  This woman was our world.  Our rock.  Our light.  And her death devastated me.  I still have not fully recovered.  To this day, even in this moment, I cannot think or speak of her without crying.  And maybe it’s because it was the first time I really experienced death and loss.  And maybe because she was just so full of life and love and liveliness.  I continue to mourn her loss each day.  But I also celebrate her life each day.
I live in my own world sometimes – hello, SandyLand.  I have adventures, I laugh my ass off – even at the most inappropriate things, I hug and kiss my nephews with so much love that I think they can’t stand it, and I have taught Abby how to play the first game of cards my nannie taught me to play.  And, just like my nannie, I play to win!
There are moments when I can be a real scrag.  I admit it.  But for the most part I try to live each day with goodness and love and laughter.  I want to continue to please my grandparents and not disappoint.  Because I know one day I will see them in Heaven and I know I will have to explain my actions to them if I’ve been a real asshole.
Each night I say a prayer for them – and my dearly departed Aunt Linda – and pray that they are all together and loving and watching and waiting.
I know, since the passing of my grandparents and of my aunt Linda, my mom and my aunt and uncles are pained.  They are broken-hearted, as we all are.  And sometimes it’s terribly difficult to get the family together for holiday celebrations or gatherings because it feels like the spark has gone out.  Like the house is empty and there’s really no point anymore. Because deep down – or even right on the surface – it’s so unbearably painful to celebrate our family when we’re no longer complete. Since my grandmother’s death, my mom (the eldest of her siblings {sorry I used the word “eldest”}) has pretty much taken over the role of the rock; the matriarch of our big but little family.  She always makes sure that no one is left out of Christmas gifts or celebrations.  She wants to honour everyone in the family – especially those who are no longer with us. But everyone sticks together.  As a family, we have had our moments, our ups and downs, that’s what happens in families sometimes.  But we love each other.  Parents, aunts, uncles, cousins.  We support each other.  And there are days we want to beat each other over the head with a golf club, but at the end of the day, when it comes right down to, our family is bonded with love and togetherness.  That is something we all inherited from Nannie and Grampie.
I want my family (my nephews, my future children) to feel like it’s Christmas morning – to feel that abundance of love and togetherness and that incredible light of love that I always felt at Nannie and Grampie’s.  Walking into my parents’ home I always feel the warmth and the welcoming I felt each time I walked into that house up the street.  And when I visit my cousins and my aunts and uncles I am always welcomed with open arms and smiles and hugs.  The way it was meant to be.  And the way it will be when we’re all together again.
~Sandy
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2 responses

  1. Amy

    What a wonderful story, sandy, although I had to stop to dry my eyes several times. You make everyone proud and happy to know you. ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️

    June 25, 2016 at 8:27 pm

  2. I love you for so many reasons. But I hate you for making me cry.
    But I still love you.

    June 25, 2016 at 10:22 pm

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