A piece about respecting your elders. A young man meets a lesson in gentleness: his wife’s grandmother.
Nana’s skin is rich and dark, like sophisticated chocolate. She’s the kind of woman you wish could have been your own grandmother—snarky but sweet, well-humored, tremendously wise, encouraging, and a wizard in the kitchen.
Nana isn’t mine. She’s my wife’s—which sort of makes her mine in this roundabout, legal sense. I am glad for it.
I met Nana last Friday on my day off. My wife Gabrielle and I caught the Long Island Railroad out to Bayside to meet some of her relatives. Nana was waiting at the train stop. I stepped out and looked up and there she was, in all her elderly elegance, standing at the top of the stairs. We met her up top. She embraced Gabrielle. I leaned in for a hug—gently, gingerly. She squeezed me close quickly—violently—and pressed her face into my chest. I was family.
I held her left hand; Gabrielle held her right. She led us like children down the sidewalk, through a few crosswalks, and around the corner to a humble home.
Nana’s voice is a sure rasp. It is bold and present and assertive and confident. I knew in a moment that this was a matriarch—a woman seasoned by life and the lessons it is fraught with—who raised her son without his father in a little house on the edge of Queens. Nana spoke authoritatively on history and on living, but with the gentleness I feel only older people can manage.
Gabrielle was in heaven. She giggled and gasped and glowed, asking questions and listening closely and playing the granddaughter. They cuddled and whispered. I looked on in envy.
Then Nana fed us. We were ushered into the kitchen and made to sit down at a small table. She served chicken and rice and green beans. When she blessed the food, I actually trembled.
I am proud to have been present—to now be part of this family’s heritage. Nana is a monument to everything good that has passed. She is a woman of principle and grace.
They say that when you marry your fiancé, you marry the whole family—so far, so good. I put a ring on every one of them, and I don’t regret it.
Photo by Mel B.