December 6, 2007

In Loving Memory

Eric's paternal grandmother, Mabel Irene Tolman, passed away today.

When you get married there are many things that come with your new spouse -- usually a mother- and father-in-law, often sisters- and brother-in-laws and many new family customs and traditions that somehow get melded together with your own family's to create something familiar yet new. When Eric and I got married one of the very best things I got, other than a pretty special husband, was his Grandma Tolman.

Grandma Tolman was a tiny woman with dark brown hair that surprisingly never turned gray. She was married to Eric's grandfather for more than 50 years. She was sweet and kind and never said a harsh word about anyone. She had many titles in her lifetime but the one she cherished most was "mother." She had eight children across twenty-some years so a good portion of her adult life was spent with a child or children in her home. She was a woman who truly cherished being a mother. It wasn't just something she did; it was completely and wholly who she was. And once those eight children grew up and moved away Grandma Tolman was forever encouraging her numerous grandchildren to come and stay with her -- and many did. One stayed while he attended medical school, others, including Eric, for the summer, and many for a few days here and there.

Even though Grandma Tolman was never loud or boisterous, she was also never one to mince words. Eric and I had been married only a short time when she started asking us when we were going to have children. She and I came from remarkably different generations. She got married and wanted children. I, on the other hand, got married and wanted a career. Her questions at first surprised me and later were simply expected. I knew we would walk in her door and up the stairs, where she would be waiting to hug and kiss us. She would then pause, step back with both hands still on my shoulders and slowly ask, "Honey, when are you two going to have children?" I learned to just smile and tell her "someday" knowing that for her "someday" would never be soon enough.

I very clearly remember when Eric and I told her we were going to adopt twin girls from China. I was so excited to tell her, not only because I knew how much she wanted us to have children but also because she too was an adoptive mother and a twin. She, as expected, was thrilled at the prospect of more great grandchildren but I think she was even more thrilled that we were going to finally be parents. For Grandma Tolman being a parent was a privilege she wanted others to have too.

Grandma Tolman was incredibly sentimental and loved to share stories about her children and grandchildren. She loved photographs and kept numerous scrapbooks; something she and I had in common. One of her favorite photos hangs in her bedroom. The picture is of Eric's dad when he's probably two or three years old. In the photograph he has a ridiculously-large curl perched on the top of his head. She loved to tell the story of how she had made him sit still so she could use a curling iron to make the curl before the picture was taken. Even as an older woman she would chuckle as she talked about her wiggling little boy who desperately did not want his mother curling his hair.

Grandma Tolman leaves behind numerous children, grandchildren and great grandchildren but more importantly she leaves behind a legacy of a life lived well; a life lived with compassion, empathy and kindness. A life lived by a woman with enough moxy to look a granddaughter-in-law in the face and ask, "So when are you two going to have children?" time and time again.

Grandma Tolman you will truly be missed.

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