Over twenty-six years ago, when I was pregnant with Rebecca, a dear family friend gave me a really special gift. On the surface, it doesn’t seem special, but over the years, it has become a cherished item in our family. It’s an item that is used several times a year but only on special occasions – typically birthdays. It’s a reminder that each of us has something to offer, that each of us is unique, that we are all special.
This simple plate that says, You are special today, has made an appearance at occasion after occasion throughout the girls lives. Using it has become a time-honored, beloved tradition in our house. Everyone knows that the table is not completely set unless the plate is in its proper place at the seat of the guest of honor.
It might seem silly, but you see, it’s about so much more than a plate.
If you’re from the Mid-Atlantic, have traveled here, or are familiar with the area at all, you know that one of the area’s claims to fame is its Maryland Blue Crab. I was blessed, not only to be born in Maryland, but to be born into a family of master boat-builders and to a grandfather who was a waterman. I grew up with blue crabs as something we took for granted rather than as a delicacy. There weren’t big crab feasts for us where we invited all of our friends and neighbors and enjoyed the special meal. No, crabs for us were sometimes a regular dinner but more often an evening snack, usually accompanied by whatever the most popular prime-time television show of that night was. And it was pretty much a daily occurrence at Granddad’s house.
I knew that my grandfather was smiling down on me when I met my husband, a young man who had been working on the water since the age of 11, who owned his own boat, and paid his way through college by catching crabs all season. For most of our marriage, it was the seasonal crab haul that took us on our vacations and added a little more spending money to our pockets. For the past several years, Ken traveled extensively; and while his travels took him, and often the whole family, to beautiful and exotic places around the world, they also took him away from his favorite pastime–being on the water and catching crabs. That all changed in 2020.
Today, I am channeling happy thoughts and cherished memories. We’ve just finished moving my mother-in-law in across the street, and having her so close has brought back so many memories of my childhood and my own children’s childhood.
I recently read an article which pointed out that “For decades, the importance of grandparents in kids’ lives flew under the radar.” The article goes on to list the many benefits:
Kids often turn to their grandparents for advice when they are facing adverse events;
relationships between children and their grandparents increased the likelihood that kids will become engaged in their communities;
and being around grandparents actually makes less sedentary and has a positive affect on their BMI.
Over the past few weeks, my blog readers have seen Morgan’s senior photos, read my advice to her as she gets ready to head to college, and accompanied us to Greece and Rome. After all of that, Morgan suggested that you all might like to know her a little better. Since she’s heading off in less than two months to begin her journey to her future career, she’d like to share with you what led her to this moment. I hope you finish this feeling like you know her a better and knowing that there is still hope for future generations.
Warning: you may need a tissue or two.
Throughout my whole life, and up until January of 2018, I struggled with what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I was terrified to make the wrong choice, knowing that this was probably the most important decision I would ever make. For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to be connected with medicine. I floated between dentist, surgeon, and even medical malpractice law. My whole life I served others with compassion and love, but it never clicked. Little did I know, that in less than two months, my whole world would flip upside down. I knew exactly what I wanted to be: a nurse.
On November 22, the day before Thanksgiving, my grandfather, who I called Poppy, was admitted into Johns Hopkins Hospital. This would be a shock for the whole family, because he had just gotten back from a week-long vacation in Colorado with my dad and aunt. Less than a week later, it was found out that he had Frontal Lobe Dementia, a rare and terminal form of dementia. We were told that he might have up to six months to live, but it was looking like a lot less. In early December, he was allowed to go home with hospice care. By this time, Poppy had lost all ability to talk and had to be fed through a feeding tube. This change was dramatic because he was always the life of the party and the most talkative person in the family with the most stories.
Poppy was a huge part of raising me. For example, he lived only 15 minutes away from my school, allowing me to see him often, and allowing him to always be present whenever anybody needed him. He came to my house just about everyday, whether it was to help my dad or simply to give to my sisters and me some pastry that he just mastered. So when I heard that someone I thought who was going to live forever was looking at less than six months, I became empty. More than just being upset that I was losing someone so important to me, I felt helpless. For me, there was only one way I could fix this, and it was to do something. So at only 16 years old, I became one of the primary caregivers for my grandfather. This forced me to become really mature really fast. I had to use my independence to be responsible for another person.
Everyday after school, I would drive right to the farmhouse where Poppy lived. I would go straight inside and begin my daily routine: feed him through a feeding tube, give him any pain medicine, try to communicate in any way possible, and just be company for him. After hours of caring for him, I would go home, do my homework, and go to bed fully prepared to do the exact same thing the next day, and everyday, until this journey was over. For the next two months, until the time of his passing, this is exactly what I did. Over Christmas vacation, I stayed with my grandparents around the clock. I was dedicated to making Poppy feel comfortable and showed deep compassion for him. This compassion is something that I will carry with me into my future career.
I learned and used every skill I needed to fully care for my grandfather so that my grandmother, Grancy, could get some sleep at night and not worry about doing everything for herself and Poppy. There were times that I would tell her I knew exactly what I was doing, even if I didn’t, and then I would figure out how to do whatever it was. By the end of my time with my grandfather, I knew that nursing was my calling. Our time together gave me the opportunity to learn skills that I will use everyday as a nurse, such as giving insulin and feeding through a tube. While these skills are material things, I also grew in compassion, sympathy, maturity, and responsibility.
Since that time, I have been very enthusiastic about my future. I am constantly trying to learn new skills that will benefit me, I have started teaching myself the Spanish that I will use with patients, and I am taking classes aimed towards health professions. When I told my uncle that I had decided to be a nurse he said to me, “You’re so smart, just go ahead and be a doctor! It pays more and you are more than capable of doing it.” I just smiled and explained to him that I don’t want to be a doctor. I don’t want to go and give patients their diagnosis and then move on to the next room to do a consultation. I want to be the person that cares for a patient for their whole journey and makes them comfortable along the way. While the time spent with my grandfather in his last few months was long, hard, and emotional, I know that it happened for a reason. I am eternally grateful for Poppy as he helped me figure out where I am meant to be in life, and not a day of my life will go by when I won’t thank him for being such a big influence on me.
I think Morgan’s grandfather would be so proud of her as he would be of all of his grandchildren. It’s going to be hard to let her go, but I think Morgan will be do just fine. I’m so excited to watch her make her dream come true.
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Amy Schisler is an award-winning author of both children’s books and sweet, faith-filled romance novels for readers of all ages. She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her books, Picture Me, Whispering Vines, and Island of Miraclesare all recipients of Illumination Awards, placing them among the top inspirational fiction books of 2015, 2016, and 2017. Whispering Vineswas awarded the 2017 LYRA Award for the best romance of 2016. Island of Miracleshas outsold all of Amy’s other books worldwide and ranked as high as 600 on Amazon. Her follow up, Island of Promise is a reader favorite. Amy’s children’s book is The Greatest Gift. The suspense novel, Summer’s Squall, and all of Amy’s books, can be found online and in stores. Her latest novel, Island of Promise, was recently awarded First Prize by the Oklahoma Romance Writer’s Association as the best Inspirational Romance of 2018 and was awarded a Gold Medal in the Independent Publisher Book Awards 2019 for Inspirational Fiction. It is a finalist for the RWA Golden Quill Contest and the Eric Hoffer Award of Fiction.
When I was a little girl, there was no place more enchanting, more relaxing, more rejuvenating for my mind, body, and soul than grandma’s house. Whether for a weekend, a week, or the whole summer, be it alone or with my brothers, it was my escape from the real world. After I got married, I continued visiting my grandmother, whose 97th birthday would have been yesterday, carving out a week every summer to make the three-hour drive from our home on the Eastern Shore down to St. Mary’s County. I even made the trip, without fail, when I had three babies in tow. How my grandmother loved those visits, and how I loved being with her. Just like when I was child, there were no demands, no places we had to go, no stresses or worries. We lounged in the living room and read books, We sat on the backyard swing and talked. We made the rounds, visiting the cousins and neighbors, but were in no hurry to be anywhere. No matter my age or station in life, grandma’s house was, for me, a glimpse of Paradise.
I tried, once I had the girls, to take a week at my own parents’ house as well, but somehow, the summers always got away from us, and I started going less and less. Just as I did when I was little, I began sending my girls to their grandmother’s house at a young age. I think Rebecca was three the first time I left her at my mother’s by herself. From the calls throughout the week, and the stories Rebecca brought home, you would have thought she spent the week at Disney World. Last summer, at the age of twenty-one, Rebecca took her boyfriend, Anthony, with her to spend several days at my parents’ house. I can’t begin to express how that made me feel. My parents felt like the most special people in the world, but they still reminded me that I didn’t get home enough. Every time I went home for a quick, overnight trip, my mother would say, “You need to come more often and stay longer.” I knew she was right, but I never really made the time to do it.
After we lost Ken’s dad this past winter, I realized how important those visits are, not just for my girls but for my parents and for me. That’s why, for the past three mornings, I have awoken in my old bedroom to the sounds of my eighty-one-year-old dad getting ready for his two-mile walk. Joining him, at a much earlier time that I would be opening my eyes at home, dad and I headed through the neighborhood. The first half the walk was spent in silence as we each prayed the Rosary. After that, dad pointed to the various houses along the way, telling me who still lived where, who was retired, who had since passed, and what changes were taking place in the neighborhood. We talked about our family and about people we knew. At times, we didn’t talk at all. We just enjoyed the quiet of each other’s company.
Yesterday, Mom and I went on a home and garden tour. We have watched three movies, gone shopping, and talked a lot. We’ve been in no hurry, had no stress or cares, and just enjoyed being together, chatting about books and the kids and life. It was my husband who reminded me that this visit is much like the ones I used to make to my grandmother’s house. I never let a summer go by that I didn’t make the trip, and far too many years have passed since I marked that week on the calendar. I’m so happy Ken reminded me how important that was. I’m going to make sure a trip to my parents’ house is always the first thing I mark on the calendar from now on when summer planning gets underway. We can’t let the busyness and the hectic pace of life allow us to ignore those beautiful gifts and glimpses of Paradise.
Please join me in celebrating the much-anticipated release of Island of Promise, the second book in my Chincoteague Island Trilogy. I am very happy to partner with Sundial Books on Chincoteague for this celebration. All are welcome on Wednesday, July 24 from 1:00-3:00 at Sundial Books. For more details: https://www.facebook.com/events/238528263576139
Amy Schisler is an award winning author of both children’s books and sweet, faith-filled romance novels for readers of all ages. She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her books, Picture Me,Whispering Vines, and Island of Miracles are all recipients of Illumination Awards, placing them among the top inspirational fiction books of 2015, 2016, and 2017.Whispering Vineswas awarded the 2017 LYRA Award for the best romance of 2016. Island of Miracles has outsold all of Amy’s other books worldwide and ranked as high as 600 on Amazon. Her latest children’s book, The Greatest Gift, is now available; and her novel, Summer’s Squall, can be found online and in stores.
My three daughters are extremely lucky in that they come from a very long line of love. On both sides of their family, they have been blessed with a long and loving history. From their parents, grandparents, great-grandparents and as far back as we can trace, they have been able to witness couples who have loved unconditionally. Yesterday, I was very happy to wish my parents a happy 52nd wedding anniversary. They learned how to love unconditionally from their own parents, and are a shining example to the rest of us.
Today, I am honored to share with you a guest blog written by my 14-year-old daughter. It exemplifies what real love truly is. Read more →