My Nana was 81 when I told her I was dating a girl.
My Nana and I go way back. Obviously. She met me the day I was born. She lived close by when I was growing up. She came to my soccer games, she brought me to the aquarium (a lot) in our state, she brought me to a casino…thinking back on that I’m kinda like wow my Nana brought me to a casino….that’s weird. She loved the beach, and we spent a lot of time there also. She hosted Thanksgiving and Christmas when I was much younger, and my memories in her home are warm and comforting.
When I was in high school and I had my license I would drive to see her at least once a week, and I even made her dinner once a week for my entire senior year. We spent New Years Eve at her house with my cousins every year, and we vacationed together in New Hampshire every Summer. She was a major influence on my life.
She and I had fun together, but we also could just chill and watch movies together. We also could fight. We were both stubborn. When she started using her walker I remember I wouldn’t bring her to the movies unless she brought the walker, and she was pissed. But she brought it, and afterward she thanked me for making her bring it.
Watching her age and go from being so active to not, has been very difficult for me. Losing the relationship we had has also been hard. Because I’m not just losing my Nana; I’m losing a friend.
The older she got the less politically correct she became. Meaning she asked me regularly if I combed my hair (it’s very curly) and when I said no, just in the shower, she would kind of make a face like it was wrong to not comb my mane down. She grimaced loudly when I got a tattoo and asked repeatedly what I was thinking.
When I started dating my now-wife my sister was already in a relationship with a woman and out as a lesbian. My Nana seemed okay with it. But I remember being very nervous about telling her because I knew she would say whatever she felt. I was worried about being rejected because I don’t care about many people’s opinions. But I cared about hers.
I told her about my then-girlfriend and she said she understood what I was telling her but she didn’t understand why. She looked completely shocked. She said about five times that day, “But I thought you were going to marry a doctor?” I didn’t really understand that. I guess because I was a nurse she assumed I would marry a doctor. Weird. So I told her that my girlfriend was an EMT, not a doctor. My Nana was by nature very polite to everyone outside of her immediate family. So my then-girlfriend now-wife was welcomed with open arms and told to call her Nana.
For the first year or so if we were alone, she would ask if I met any doctors. I would remind her about my girlfriend. She would say “Oh yes, how is she doing?” Then after a year she stopped asking about doctors. Later, when I told her about our impending marriage she was thrilled for me. She loved my fiancee by then, and never asked about a doctor again.
One day in the Spring of 2015 we were sitting on my parents porch and I told my Nana I was pregnant with twins. She laughed and clasped her hands together, and said “Well you always do things big if you are going to do them, I’m so happy for you.” I remember the joy we all felt sitting together knowing the wonderful times that would come.
By the time our sons were born my Nana was declining cognitively. She might not remember what day it was or who people were- in fact she often called me by one of my Aunt’s names- but she always remembered she had six grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. And she never forgot their names.
She met the boys for the first time on Christmas 2015 and she held them and made up her own nicknames for them and as they grew into little toddlers she still loved to watch them play and try and hold them if they would stay still. Something that made it special was giving one of my son’s my Grandfather’s name as his middle name. As he grows we all can see the striking resemblance he bears to my Grandfather who passed in 1993. That meant so much to my Nana. When the boys were about six months we were visiting, and she held one at a time, and the one who looks like my Grandfather just calmly looked her right in the eye like he knew who she was and was at peace and content just sitting with her.
The last time I saw her when she was thinking clearly I told her stories about the boys and she laughed at their toddler antics. My sons turned two the day after she died. My Nana loved birthdays and cake. I knew she would want us to celebrate them and eat a lot of cake. So that’s what we did.
As I faced her impending passing I stepped back and looked at all she had been through. To have not one but two granddaughters identify as lesbians and to be able to accept that at her age and with her conservative background is nothing short of amazing. No one in my family made a big deal about us being lesbians because everyone just wanted to be accepting, but when I really examine it she pretty much kicked ass.
All my young LGBT clients fear coming out to their grandparents the most. They think they are the most conservative and the most rigid members of their families. I thought that way too, and was pleasantly surprised when she proved me wrong. Minus the whole asking about marrying a doctor for a year.
It’s sad that my sons won’t know her the way I knew her. It’s sad that I lost a dear friend. But I’m incredibly proud to have her blood run through my veins. Because she taught me that even age 82 is not too old to learn acceptance. Her demonstration of unconditional love for her two granddaughters will live in my heart forever.
I say the following sincerely and with much love and admiration; rest in peace Nana.