Growing up, I knew I had the coolest Grandma in the world.
She lived with us, instead of having to come to visit.
She had that cool English accent, which most of my classmates had never heard off of TV.
She even had a cool job. After all, when you’ve bumped your knee or scraped your elbow, who better to run to than someone who works in the hospital? (I was older before I understood she changed bed sheets there.)
How do you beat something like that?
Today, the coolest Grandma in the world turns 91. And she’s only gotten cooler over the years.
She is, well and truly, one of the Irreplaceable People.
You know what I mean. We all have people we love and admire. But there are a few whose disappearance would leave a hole the size of the Grand Canyon, whose presence is as assumed as the air we breathe. A neighbor. A partner. A friend.
You can always tell the real thing. They’re the ones where you can tell as many stories on them as you can on yourself, and probably with greater accuracy.
Like how my sisters and I would huddle with Grandma on Christmas morning and exchange off-kilter Christmas carols. (“Good King Wenceslas looked out, in his pink pajamas ….”)
Or how she survived the Blitz as a young woman and a new bride, then later chose to start life over in a new country at the age of 37. While making sure the immigration folks didn’t pay too much attention to her ill 6-year-old daughter, by the way, which could have made everyone wait at least another week.
Or how she became an inseparable part of the “English Ladies” of Longmont, becoming friends with my future wife’s grandma long before Heather and I even knew each other existed. (When we did finally meet and become a couple, Grandma reminded us “If you can make it through the first 30 years, the rest is easy.”)
We’ve swapped jokes, traded news and admired my sisters’ new children. There have been scares occasionally – the bypass surgery in the ‘80s, the hip injury a couple of years ago – but even these have occasionally spun off stories of their own. I mean, how many grandmas injure themselves during physical rehab while playing video baseball on a Wii?
Through it all, I’ve never doubted her love. That’s part of what being one of the Irreplaceable People means.
It also means some extra attention needs to be paid. Because when you have an Irreplaceable Person in your life, the tendency is to think they’ll always be there. After all, they always have been, right?
But unfortunately, irreplaceable doesn’t mean invulnerable. And timeless love doesn’t mean the clock stops ticking.
Spend the time. While it’s there.
And now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to go call the coolest Grandma in the world.
Happy birthday, Grandma Elsie.