We coined it the “German Invasion”. My Mom’s brother has been here for the last week with his daughter, her fourth child, his son and daughter in law and their twin daughters. They were all here from Germany for the youngest children to become American citizens.
I can now update my Grandmother’s yellow notepad where she listed all her great-grandchildren and their citizenship status. It was always important to her that all her great-grandchildren obtain their American citizenship duly awarded to them by my Uncle’s natural born citizenship and 30+ years living here before moving to Germany to pursue his career. Though they have lived across the pond we are connected by blood and now we are all American citizens. My Grandmother would have celebrated this rite of passage with her forth, fifth and sixth great-grandchildren born in Germany.
Aside from my Uncle, this has been the first visit for the rest of my family from Germany since my Grandmother died. We were anxious, to put it mildly. How would this feel without our matriarch? Can my Mother and my Uncle carry on their Mother’s legacy the way she would want? Can they keep the bow tied, beautifully bonding this family that has been parted by the Atlantic for so many years? This visit had a purpose; citizenship. But even more personally we each needed to know that the ties that bind go far beyond a grave.
I cannot imagine the difficult and emotional choices my Uncle and my Grandparents made years ago when he moved to Germany for what has proven to be a wise decision as he achieved world wide success. We are now spoiled by free email, Facebook and Skype that keeps us all connected. Over the years as long distance became affordable my Grandmother spoke to her son almost daily and she looked forward to his calls, receiving updates on the day to day life of her grandchildren and her great-grandchildren. One week before she died we had arranged a surprise Skype with my cousin, his wife and her 11month old twin great-grandchildren. It was the first and last time she saw them in anything more than still pictures. She barely spoke. She just smiled and stared with happiness that lit up the room. I remember my cousin asking if she could hear them speaking and see the girls. I reassured him that she was watching the screen and was simply speechless in her joy. I will never forget sitting beside her in front of the computer screen that Tuesday morning.
Her presence has been with us over the last couple of weeks. We have laughed at things she would have said. We have tearfully noted her absence and joyfully relished in the knowledge that family remains family, no matter the distance. She formed bonds that will withstand the forces of any tide. We found healing with each other.
She would be happy. She would be beyond happy to see her family together, celebrating another generation, celebrating American citizenship for her great-grandchildren. She would be beyond happy watching her grandchildren and her great-grandchildren getting reacquainted with each other and fall in love with family. She would be beyond happy to see that we are living out love the way she taught us, not letting water separate the love that she bore.
It makes me happy, that in her absence, she is still calling the shots in this family.
© Gatewood Campbell, July 2013