Grandma Betty Ol’ Chevy
A Facebook post • This was a longer post I wrote that still has meaning for me • January 20, 2021
This is my dad’s car. It was my grandmother’s car. Since the demise of Dave’s car, we have been unearthing this car that has been parked since my dad left for Colorado last year. My brother Scott Quale had to put some muscle into it to get it to the mechanic. My mom drove me down to Gowanda to pick it up. A real family effort to get my husband Dave a car, so he can get to work.
As I was driving home in it, I was awash in emotion. Over the last week, my dad has let me know he won’t be returning home permanently but will live primarily in Colorado with his step family even after the vaccine. Even though he is far away, by giving us his car he was still able to make our lives easier. And my beloved grandma Betty, from the grave no less, was doing the same.
I am someone who has relied upon my grandparents and father to lift me out of the dump that is my negativity and self doubt. In their homes with them, I could feel their love lift me from the sludge. Yeah they could be challenging but they didn’t judge me harshly. With them, I was never saddled with the disappointment that I am in my own head. Their joy with my very existence was palpable. Oh I loved them and them me. It was a balm and it filled me up like those cracked pots filled in with gold. As Covid rages on, I wonder if we will ever know the toll it has taken to our love quotient – how many grandparents aren’t there anymore to raise their beloved babies into adulthood with shine in their eyes. Oh the intangibles of this pandemic.
It has made me all the more protective of my mother who has learned the art of grandparenting from the masters.
Often when I am again sunk deep in my negativity and self doubt, I worry that without my dad and grandparents I will live in the worst of me. I don’t have the magic internally that they cast on me. Dave reminded me that it isn’t magic that I seek. I give it all the time to my family. I need to learn how to give it to myself.
Wise words. Hard to know how to do.
Yesterday in the car, Sam started with normal and infuriating 15 year old stuff. I began to plunge back into that hard place. From the back of the car Cal started to breathe deeply. He said, “Just breathe with me, Mommy.” I did.
We picked up Dave and when we arrived at the end of our street, I got out to walk home. Cal asked to come with me. He held my hand and said, “The cold will make your head feel better.” He told me what he loved about me.
By the time I was home, I felt 1000x better.
After Cal was diagnosed with ADHD, Dave and I went to marriage counseling and then to a series of classes taught by our counselor on the Nurtured Heart Approach to Parenting through the Parenting Network. Basically it teaches how to fill up your child’s love cup which eventually guides the child’s behavior. We give our child good messaging, tell them what they are doing well, which leads them down the path of goodness.
Honestly, when you first start this parenting approach, it feels futile. Not only do you deal with your own entrenched internal negative messaging, you are trying to fill up your kid’s love cup while he is hanging upside down from the chandelier. It takes time, practice, patience – all of which in the world of ADHD is hard to come by.
Yet, here we are. Cal has gotten so good at it, he can give it to me.
Oh what I wouldn’t do to hang out with my Grandfather and watch an old movie; or be folded into my Nana’s expansive, supple and firm embrace; or drink beer and smoke cigarettes with my grandma Betty and tell each other family secrets; or enjoy those vitriolic feasts with my Papa. I am grieving the loss of those weekly visits with my dad. We are two peas in a pod. He always knew just what to say. He has helped me so much to be a good wife and mother and housekeeper and artist and human by filling up my love cup, by enjoying my conversation, by understanding me.
I must acknowledge, so as not to give into nostalgia too much, that in those moments with my grandparents, I often longed for a future with my own kids. Now, here I am spending too much time looking back.
And today is inauguration day. I refuse to live under this Trump like tyranny inside my own head. I am not giving into the malarkey.
I will enjoy this car for as long as it works as a vestige of that easy, joyful and helpful ride given to us by family