I feel like you should know about my Nonnie.
And by "you," I mean anyone. Everyone.
Because we should all be living, and loving, like Nonnie.
But maybe the first thing, maybe the most beautiful thing that you should know, is that she wasn't actually my Nonnie. Nope. At least not by blood. She technically belonged to the family of very dear friends. But that didn't stop her from spreading her wings a little wider and making room to love another. I lost my own grandparents by the time I turned twelve, so being gifted a bonus one in my early twenties felt like the most special kind of special. She didn't hold back connecting simply because of DNA. Instead she welcomed me to call her Nonnie, and I did. She reached out. Again and again. And it turns out, that's what it takes. Exactly what it takes to grow a relationship that feels like family. Think of the "family" we could have, if we’re just willing to love like family.
She was lucky in love! If you knew her for even a short time, you probably already knew that. Because she never stopped saying it. If you ever sat at the table and played pinochle with her, then you absolutely heard, "I may not be lucky in cards, but I sure was lucky in love." The thing is though, her husband predeceased her by many years. She lived a long time without him. But it wasn't sorrow and despair that she rested in, it was gratitude. Gratitude! Of course she had great heartache in her life. You can't make it past a hundred, and be spared breaking loss. Yet, she never stopped being thankful for the love that was woven into her life. My friends, look around, I bet you're "lucky in love" too. Whether it's your spouse, or your children, or a deep friendship, I bet you're "lucky in love." Let your heart rest gratefully in that.
Did I mention cards? I think I did. Because she never stopped playing. And by playing I mean, she never stopped connecting with people. When my husband and I were still dating, she'd host us in her little apartment every Tuesday evening. We'd bring an automatic card shuffler I still clung to from the days of playing cards with my own grandparents. And she'd serve us a glass of port and a bowl of popcorn. We'd play cards, but really it was the way she made us feel that had us coming back week after week. By no means was this just with us though! She played cards with her family. She played cards at the women's club. She played cards with her neighbors. It kept her engaged. It kept her sharp. It kept her company. She never stopped inviting. She never stopped playing. She never stopped connecting. Neither should we. So much of the game, is our willingness to get in the game.
Life of the party. Yep. You know that moment at the end of a wedding reception when the crowd starts dwindling as people head home? That's usually the time Nonnie would look around and make sure she could secure a later ride home. Because she was all in. There was celebration to be had. There was music to dance to. There were people to embrace. And she did just that. She stayed. Every time. She didn't sit and watch from the chairs on the outskirts. She was on that dance floor. If there was life to be had, she was going to have it! Whatever your version of the dance floor of life is, shake it.
She leaned in. Nonnie had difficulty hearing. A lot. Even with the assistance of hearing aids it was hard for her to hear in situations with background noise (which are soooo many situations). But she leaned in. She could have easily let the frustration win. She could have easily found a cozy spot on the perimeter of family and social functions. She could have easily just opted out of conversations that would definitely prove challenging. But she didn't. She leaned in. She never gave up on life. She never gave up on people. It was always worth it to lean in. Let's.lean.in.
There's more. There's always more. Her story is long. It's full. It's beautiful.
But I felt like you should know at least that bit about Nonnie.
Because hers wasn't just a life well lived. It was well loved.
And ours should be too.
*Photo of my husband, back when he was my brand new husband, out on that dance floor with Nonnie.
**And I know you already know, but to the ones that she belonged to that so sweetly shared her with me - thank you.