D. None of the Above: A grandchild recalls the summoning finger and...

D. None of the Above: A grandchild recalls the summoning finger and the cake cutter in a moment of eloquence

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By Daniel Dunaief

Daniel Dunaief

It’s so easy to take each other for granted. Of course mom is going to drop everything at work, where she has an incredibly important job, and race to watch you play clarinet with your dad during a day-time concert because that’s what she does and that’s who she is.

And, of course, grandma is going to bring the entire family together for various holidays, welcoming us with hugs and kisses and ensuring that the house has the specific foods each of us needs for the days we share.

But these moments are not a given, any more than sunshine during a picnic or a last minute, life-saving reaction that avoids a traffic accident is.

Recently, my wife and I attended a service for my late mother-in-law. In a small ceremony at the cemetery, almost the entire extended family came.

My wife and I, our children and father-in-law arrived together over 90 minutes early. We sat in the car, waiting for everyone else to arrive and for the ceremony to begin. Other cars slowly glided past us, as other families and friends came to pay respects and to honor those whom they were fortunate enough to know but had lost.

Our children and I climbed out of the car and walked up and down the road, looking at the significant life-defining dates — when someone was born and when they died. We calculated how old each person was. A child died at the age of two in 1931, while a grandmother lived well into her 90’s.

Small raindrops started to fall, sending us scampering back into the car just before a sudden and surprisingly strong downpour.

My wife checked the forecast, which suggested that the rain would stop before the ceremony. Sure enough, 20 minutes before we had to get out of the car, the rain eased up and the sun peaked through the clouds, as the mixed weather served as a backdrop for moments of appreciation and an awareness of the keen loss.

We greeted other family members, who hugged us, shook our hands, or, in some cases, ignored us, carrying grudges or standing on principle for slights real or imagined long ago.

We saw an extended relative and her fiancée whom we hadn’t seen in person since their engagement. We congratulated them on their upcoming wedding, asked about the planning for the big day, and enjoyed the reality of a multi-year relationship transitioning into an upcoming marriage.

The officiant called everyone over, causing almost every other conversation to stop. After some somber words, he urged us to reflect on the person we were so fortunate to know and on the valuable time we shared.

After he expressed awe at the incredible long-term marriage between my father-in-law and mother-in-law, he asked if anyone wanted to speak. In a soft voice, my father-in-law celebrated the relationship he had with his wife, recalling the first time he met her and the bond they formed over 66 years of marriage.

When the officiant asked if anyone else wanted to speak, he turned to the grandchildren. Our son, who is the youngest grandchild and who gravitated towards his mother to offer his support, nodded.

He remembered the way his grandmother called him over whenever we arrived, smiling broadly and signaling with her index finger for him to come kiss her, which he and all the next generation readily did.

He also remembered how grandma, who was among the smallest people in any room, was always the cake cutter for birthdays. He described how her tiny arms worked their way through each cake, even frozen ice cream cakes, as she made sure everyone got a piece.

With each word, he reflected the love she gave to all her grandchildren back out into the world. In that moment, when he so eloquently captured his grandmother’s dedication to family, he made it clear that he didn’t take her for granted, any more than my wife and I took him for granted.

Without any preparation, he rose to the occasion, helping us see her through his grateful eyes.

There was no “of course” that day for grandma or for her grandchildren, just gratitude.


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