My Gran died. She had a large, loving family, a lifetime of memories and a tired old heart, and so she died. I already miss her, and the centrifugal force that held our family together. We congregated at her house at Christmas, on birthdays and almost every single Sunday of my life. On those Sundays you had to eat; soup, cake, ice cream, steak pie, strawberries, and sometimes, if you didn’t want anything at all, you’d get offered a brandy; but mostly, you had to eat, because that’s what families coming together is all about. Families eating together is a kind of communion, a celebration of being together for no good reason at all. So Sundays were special.
Here’s what my Gran taught me. She doesn’t know she taught me this. Just something else I wish I had thought to tell her.
Love is a verb
Words are easy. It’s a simple, small thing to say to someone ‘I love you’. It’s much, much harder to show someone that you love them, day in day out, for as long as you share a wee bit of the world.
I knew my Gran loved me because she proved it. When I was pregnant she spent weeks gathering stuff for the new babies’ arrival – vests, bibs, nappies, and dummies, all wrapped up in a cosy knitted blanket. Getting ‘the baby box’ from Gran was a big deal!
And when I had a two year old and a tiny baby, and I’m sure looked like I’d had far too many sleepless nights, she said to me she was just sorry she couldn’t be more help. She was 90! I told her that, as far as looking after babies went, her work was done, but in truth it bothered her not to be able to give help when someone she loved needed it.
Every week, when she was busy boosting supermarket profits sky-high (and don’t think there’s no connection between Tesco’s losses and my Gran no longer doing her weekly shop) she would buy me a pack or two of baby wipes or maybe some nappy bags. In fact, her nappy bag mountain is still going strong and will outlive her for some months yet!
It may sound trite, but that’s real love. The fact that my Gran had me in mind each week, that she spent her own money on wipes because she knows babies are expensive, that she kept the kid’s bankies filled with pennies, that she loved nothing more than sharing a cuppa and a sneaky cigarette and some stories from her past. Those little things, those small gestures that speak volumes; that’s real love.
Not words, not songs, not lofty proclamations without actions to back them up. Words crumble to dust in the face of solid, dependable, unswerving, unquestioning love. Love is a verb. I’m glad I’ve seen it done.