Waiting 94 Years for a Birthday Gift

It was her 94th birthday. It was also her first birthday without her husband since they were married 77 years ago. The last of her two daughters died 8 years ago and I am the only grandchild who lives near her so she spends most of her days alone. She expected her birthday would be quiet and uneventful. The staff at the assisted living facility where she lives would likely wish her “Happy Birthday” but beyond that there were no plans except Mexican food for dinner with me and my wife and her caregiver and her husband.

It was early afternoon when a FedEx envelope arrived at the facility addressed to her. She expected it to be bill or a check from her long term care insurance. She did not expect it to be a birthday greeting, who would? No one sends a birthday card via FedEx. But someone did. Someone she had not seen or heard from in 27 years.

She opened the envelope and discovered a photograph of a man she did not recognize holding a small sign that read, “Happy Birthday Grandma.” It was her oldest grandson, who she had not seen or spoken to since 1988.

Our Grandfather had cut off all contact long ago. Gramps was an old fashioned man with old fashioned morals and when he learned in 1988 that his oldest grandson was gay he responded in a manner that was as sad as it was predictable. Gramps wanted nothing to do with him. Grandma had no choice but to yield to her husband’s wishes. Her oldest grandson disappeared from their will and their lives.

But Gramps is gone now, and her grandson wondered if it might be okay to reach out to his grandmother. He sent me an email asking for her address, asking if I thought it would be okay. My reply was, “Why not? What do you have to lose?” He sent the photo the next day. With the picture he included a note telling his grandma that he loved her and that he hoped that she would have a happy birthday. He wrote “call me anytime.”

She called right then. Their conversation was brief but wonderful. They both cried. On her 94th birthday she got her grandson back. What a gift.

He and I talked on the phone that evening after dinner. We spoke about the power of forgiveness and the beauty of restoration, both grateful that our Grandma had lived to see this day.

-          Bart

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