February 8, 2019

Emmaus Walk / Debra Tomaselli

Gift of grandparenting includes sharing God’s love with others

Debra Tomaselli“Debbie!” Nanny Tess met me at the door with an enthusiastic smile. “Come in!”

When I was a high school senior, my family moved back to New York, near my paternal grandparents. I loved to visit Nanny after school.

She’d welcome me. “Want some tea? Cake?”

Unless you were willing to dim the sparkle in her big brown eyes, you’d say “yes.”

She’d set the table with floral china teacups, saucers and plates.

Next, she’d produce a box of Entenmann’s crumb cake. “Help yourself,” she’d say.

She’d pour the tea, pull up a chair, and look me in the eye. “Tell me,” she’d say. “How’s Debbie’s life?”

Smiling, she’d lean forward, eager to listen.

I’d talk about today’s math test, yesterday’s basketball game or plans for the upcoming dance. Nanny listened, making eye contact, nodding her head and asking questions. We’d joke and laugh.

When I’d leave, she’d grab my hand. “Shh … ,” she’d say. “Don’t tell grandpa.” Eyes twinkling, she’d push a folded $20 bill into my palm.

I’d try to refuse the money, but she wouldn’t hear of it. Like the cake, I couldn’t possibly talk her out of it. Giving gave her such joy.

Generosity. That’s something I learned from Nanny Tess.

Faithfulness. Holiness. Joyfulness. I learned that from her, too.

A crucifix hung in every room in Nanny Tess’s house. I remember praying at Mass with my family and grandparents, and returning to Nanny’s house for Sunday dinner. Faith was central to our family life.

Love. Selfless love. In later years, that was Nanny’s parting lesson.

I’ll never forget an incident in which she taught me that love is a sacrifice.

I was getting ready to drive Nanny to my dad’s engagement party. (After mom’s death, Dad got engaged to Peg, a woman he met at church.) While Nanny wouldn’t admit it, I noticed she wasn’t feeling well. As I grabbed my coat, Nanny sat quietly on the sofa, doubled in pain. Finally, I addressed her. “Nanny, don’t go,” I said. “Everyone will understand.”

She thought momentarily, then spoke. “No,” she said. “It’s important to your dad and Peg that I be there. I’ll go.”

I cringed, knowing she was suffering.

She went. Nobody noticed Nanny Tess wasn’t feeling well. She managed to smile, laugh and converse. She kept that trademark sparkle in her eyes.

I watched as Dad proudly introduced her to Peg’s family. Clearly, Nanny Tess was right. It was important to Dad and Peg that she was there.

I was touched by Nanny’s selfless love.

Now that I’m a grandmother, I find myself thinking about Nanny Tess a lot.

Looking back, I realize she lived the faith she professed.

Today I’m reading Allen R. Hunt’s book, Dreams for your Grandchild, and it says no one loves like a grandparent. He says it’s important to love your grandchildren well, as they are learning God’s love as it is embodied in you.

If that’s the case, I had an excellent teacher. May I follow in her footsteps.

Thank you, Nanny Tess.

(Debra Tomaselli writes from Altamonte Springs, Florida. She can be reached at dtomaselli@cfl.rr.com.)

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