Sunday, November 02, 2008

Autobiography of a Monee

Or: Top Secret Project Revealed
Or: Why I Love My Family

Finished Project Yesterday we had Monee's 80th birthday party and the unveiling of this year's top secret project: her autobiography. This is something she's been working on, off and on, for the last 20 years or so, so everyone knew about it in a general sense at least, but without really expecting anything at any particular time. Around March or so, when I started going up to Rossmoor to visit more often, she told me she was planning on resurrecting the project, finishing it in secret, and surprising everyone with it at her birthday. I was appointed her Secret Editor in Chief, with duties that included proofreading, editing, formatting, and general motivation and encouragement. We chipped away at it a little bit every week, then two months ago Pa and I took it down to a copy shop to get all 70 pages of it printed and bound, along with 50 pages of photos Greg had assembled for it years ago. Then we had to just sit on it quietly and not give anything away until the appointed moment. But it made a beautiful book and it was immensely satisfying to hand them out to everyone when the time finally came.

I am extremely proud of my grandmother for getting this completed. It was no small task, especially since her health was none too good back when I joined the project, and it was very slow going at times. But everything worked out wonderfully, and I'm honored to have been a part of making it happen.

After dinner, dessert, and presentation of the book, the assembled multitudes (well, moderate multitudes) got to go around the circle and share what we appreciate and love about Monee, Gramma Kathy, Mom, Kathleen, or whatever else we all call her. And while we expected (and got) very loving things from family members, I think what struck me most was the non family members. That's sort of an artificial distinction, though. The concept of "family" at these gatherings always feels very fluid and extendable. Not only did several people have significant others there, but there were also two ex-spouses and an ex-girlfriend. One of the exes was my dad, who also brought along my step-mother and step-grandmother, who I don't think had even met any of my family beyond me before.

And what comes through the most from all these supposedly unrelated people is how much a part of the family they became, right from the very beginning, being welcomed and loved right along with everyone else. Shaleece said she was nervous the first time she came to meet everyone, "but as soon as I got here, I wasn't nervous anymore." Grandma Marian said she was welcomed like an old friend in spite of meeting them for the first time. Mom talked about never feeling the slightest doubt about being absolutely, unconditionally loved, and I think it's clear that when you can raise a family like that, it extends well beyond the literal family.

Having grown up in this family, I realized that this is something I've kind of taken for granted, and it's easy to forget that not all families are like that. And it's even more impressive when you realize so much of this is flowing down from a woman who can't remember ever being told "I love you" until my grandfather came along and said it to her. So I admire my Monee all the more for that, and I'm incredibly grateful to be a part of this wonderful family, may it grow ever larger.


Lacey said...

Here, here! I really wish I could have been there for the unveiling of the surprise -- I assume there's a copy for me, too, though, and I can't wait to see it! :)

Lacey said...

Hmmm, I think I meant "Hear, hear!" My English is getting discombobulated.... :P

cristie said...

LOL - yes Lacey, you meant "hear hear." I was glad to see you correct that - it's one of my pet word peeves!

Graham, this was a beautiful post that captured the feeling of the party and the family wonderfully. Thank you so much for all the work you put into helping our grandmother finish her project. I am looking forward to curling up with the book and getting to experience a bit of her life. :)