It’s National Grandparents’ Day — a day to celebrate those who spoil you and love you and treat you like you are the greatest gift given to the world. And on today, I remember those four grandparents I was blessed to have for a small time who have since passed on, leaving behind traces of the love they shared.

Sometimes it makes me sad that I didn’t get to know my grandparents as an adult. I think about conversations we might have had or things we might have done together. I think I would’ve sat by them, listening intently to their stories, clinging to their words as if they were a guide to life. Would we have been friends? Would my grandmothers have taught me all the secret ingredients to their recipes? Would my grandfathers have been overly protective knowing I moved to New York? I believe the answer is yes to all of these questions, as well as all the other questions I often wonder about.

I was the only granddaughter on either side of the family. I had two sets of wonderful grandparents that upheld what it meant to truly value family. My paternal grandparents – Nana and Papa – were 100% Italian. My maternal grandparents – Meemaw and Granddad – were 100% country. Combine these, and you feel extremely loved, extremely valued, and of course very well fed.

I knew Papa for the shortest amount of time, though I’m told he was elated when he found out he had a granddaughter. Sadly, I only have two memories of him – the strongest being that of kissing his unshaven cheek. I wish I could’ve known him, could’ve talked to him. Maybe he would’ve told me about the places he saw while traveling with the army, or maybe he would’ve given me billiards tips. But I know he dearly loved me.

Nana was your stereotypical Italian grandmother. She spent hours every Sunday creating her perfect spaghetti sauce, welcoming the entire family to enjoy her creation after church each week. She always kept marshmallow cream and graham crackers in the white cabinet in the kitchen, and it was she who watched me when I stayed home sick from school. We’d make crafts during the day – I’d create bookmarks with little flowers while she crocheted blankets. Her house was the final destination on Halloween, sitting in the middle of her carpeted floor sorting through candy. She made scrumptious pizzelles that to this day have never been matched by anyone else.

What I remember most about Granddad are his hands. They were big and strong – qualities a little girl notices and admires. But I also remember the ornery smirk that would creep across his face on Christmas morning when everyone opened packages. Granddad always had a pocket knife in the pocket of his brown work coveralls. He stood much taller than me, so of course he would rock the swing as we sat on it together. He taught me how to can vegetables, and he would have a cheesecake already in the refrigerator every time we arrived. He’d rub his bald head when he thought or told stories, and his calloused hands were tender when they helped me.

Meemaw was a strong woman with a calm soul. She would wake up at 6am every morning and never needed an alarm clock. She made perfect poached eggs with bacon, and would always cut my toast into triangles. She loved Andy Griffith and would cover her mouth when she belly laughed. She passed her love for animals on to me, and she always had a dog sitting beside her with her hand on its head. She demanded that my parents let my brothers and I sleep in while at her house, and she let me lay my head in her lap while we watched TV. She was a beautiful woman.

No, I didn’t get to have adult relationships with my grandparents, but I had an amazing childhood because of the experiences they each gave me. Looking back, it’s easy to see that they adored being grandparents. And now, I strive to learn more about the people they were, as I cling to the simple – but extraordinary – memories we built during my childhood.

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