I remember, while growing up, my grandma was around almost all the time, taking care of everything, especially after my granddad had passed away too early.
She prepared lunch for my dad and my uncle 5 times a week, every week for over 30 years. When we ran up the stairs and passed her front door she would already wait there and invite us in for something to drink or to snack on. I think she went the exact time every year to her vacation house in Italy. Sometimes she went twice. She was always very committed to her responsibilities back home and made sure everyone knew what to do. We also learned how important it is to fulfill your responsibilities even if you have to put yourself second.
One day she told me she would love to visit San Francisco. It was her dream to go there.
I can’t remember if I made it up a little but it felt the topic came back again and again in our conversations over the years. And I remember me thinking “I would love to go with her to San Francisco but how should I pay for that?”
As usual life came in the way. I started university, had no money, later got sucked into my first job, had a bit of money but took the free days for holidays with my girlfriend.
Every time I remembered San Francisco again I started looking up information, casually brought up the topic in our conversations again and wondered if she would sponsor the expensive trip.
My grandma got hip surgeries and slowly lost her eyesight and I tried to find a travel agency for people with disabilities to get her around in a hilly city like San Francisco, maybe with cabs or a wheelchair. I still somehow wanted to make it work. It just got more and more complicated.
Yet, she never picked up on any of my ideas. Not when she was still fit nor later. Maybe I was not bold enough? Maybe she thought she couldn’t leave home?
When she turned 90 and spent most of her time at home in front of the tv, she said sadly she would have loved to go to San Francisco with me.
She passed away without ever seeing San Francisco.
I felt deeply heartbroken and shattered. My mum said she didn’t know where this San Francisco idea came from and she thought it was just loose idea she had on her mind.
But I felt differently.
My grandma had such an achievable dream, yet she couldn’t fulfill it because of the responsibilities she had built around herself. And the ones I made my own priority instead of going with her.
Three years later I quit my job, determined to change my life. I bought a one way ticket and started traveling to the three destinations I always wanted to see: Hawaii, New Zealand, and San Francisco.
I took a photo of her with me.
When Bridget and I drove along the Big Sur from LA to San Francisco she enjoyed the ride on the dashboard. I showed her the Golden Gate Bridge and left her in a beautiful green tree with a great view of the Bay and the Bridge, a pin of our hometown next to it.
Something I have learned from my grandma is not to put my dreams on hold. I try to pursue them more constantly since then, challenge responsibilities and what is really important.
Sometimes it works better, sometimes I am still scared.
But I guess that’s all part of our personal journeys.
Today would have been the 97th birthday of my grandma. She passed away 6 years and I still feel tears building up every time I think about her. I miss her. A lot.
I carry many memories of her with me and they are definitely not all happy. But I learned a lot from her and she helped shaping me to who I am now in many ways.
My memories on what my grandma did, prepared and represented might differ from or might not be what my family would recall. Each of us has their own memories and stories. I guess time and child memory definitely shaped some things. But all the bits around San Francisco seem still pretty clear.
I hope you liked the view, Oma.