Life has definitely been an amazing adventure in the last five years. And I'm beyond grateful for the opportunities determination, perseverance and hard work have afforded. But more than that, I'm grateful to the mothers who helped shape my destiny, like my grandmother, Eva. She was my mother in every way. And when she died in 2009, I felt lost. Alone. As if I'd never receive the kind of love she gave me again.
She would have loved seeing me in my Alexander McQueen while on stage, performing for crowds like the one that came in for James. "Only my Rebecca," she'd say, smiling that magnetic smile I was fortunate enough to inherit, thanks to the magic of genetics.
Though I feel her with me each day, I can't help but yearn to hear her laugh again. Listen for her slippered feet shuffling down the gleaming hallway hardwoods. Feel the incomparable love in one of her seriously good hugs. Yeah...I miss that last one most.
What would she say to me today, if we could once again sit at her kitchen table, frozen brownies, poppy seed cookies and blueberry cake thawing on a tray in front of us as her kettle began to rattle on the gas stove for tea? The first thing she'd talk about, besides my "ugly" sneakers, would be my teeth. She was obsessed with teeth. Having a straight, white smile was important to her. Not because she was shallow. Because she knew that a great smile opened doors. Doors that can lead to sitting on stage with talents like James Marsters. Where most people gloss over the importance of appearance in connection to success, my grandmother was unabashedly honest about it. Glad I listened. In more ways than one.
Once we got past things like my bad choice of footwear, straight-white teeth, blonde hair, and whether or not I was eating enough, my grandmother would masterfully turn the conversation to more serious matters, like my relationship.
"If anybody can do it, it's my Rebecca...," she'd say, after I spouted every fear, doubt, and impossible path I thought, for some reason, would be a good idea. This somewhat vague statement simply meant: Have patience, and stay the course. Whether about love, an important life decision, or a professional goal, it never mattered. The moment I conceived of any idea, my grandmother believed in me. She never once faltered in that belief. It's what allows me to move forward today with such confidence. Because my grandmother was ALWAYS right. And even though she's not physically here today, her faith in me remains.
In December, that faith helped me travel to Europe for the first time to see the WWII grave sight of my grandmother's brother, Nathan. He died a few weeks before the Battle of the Bulge under General Patton. At 22, the almost-graduate from Ball State and first in the family to attend college, joined the Army to help free the oppressed. He was studying engineering and like my grandmother, like me, he was also a polyglot. This came in very handy, given that two of the many languages he spoke included German and Russian. Nathan was the youngest of my grandmother's siblings. His loss never left my grandmother. Afraid to fly, she was unable to visit his grave; this bothered her greatly. She always felt unsettled about it, unsure if her beloved brother was truly at rest. When I went there four months ago, it was for her. A friend accompanied me to the cemetery. He stood by my side as the caretaker performed a small ceremony at the grave to honor my uncle, who died a hero. Not because he died in service. But because he died saving another's life. Like my grandmother saved mine.
That's why she's my mother; I'm alive today because of her. Because when my grandmother saved me, it was not to die a slow death. Or take the easy road for the sake of tired feet. No, she saved me to live, and live fully. To be brave. Strong. Like her. To be patient. And stay the course. No matter what.
After all, if anybody can do it, I can...thanks to my grandmother.
Miss you and love you, Grams! Every. Single. Day.