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Count It All Joy

August 2021 - By Sylvia Crim-Brown

Count It All Joy

When I was a little girl my grandfather would often tell me, whether things were good or bad, we must count it all as joy. I have to admit, at the time I had no idea what he was trying to tell me. There were certain things I definitely would not count as joy. Like in the 4th grade when my crush, who sat behind me, would pull my braid every day and then laugh. How was that joy? Or later in life when I was a young divorcee struggling to raise two active boys on my own with little to no money. How was that joy? I thought “you’re adorable Grandpa but you have no idea what you’re talking about.”

But like always the older I got the smarter my grandfather became. It wasn’t until my recent reunion with my grown sons and their families that I knew exactly what Grandpa meant.

So many things have changed in this past year and a half. Being a widow and an empty nester, I had decided to move from New York State to Florida to begin a new life of my own. I got a new home; new job and made new friends.

I had left my youngest son, Kevin, and his family back in Westchester, which included my first and only granddaughter, Kaylah. She was the love of my life and leaving her was probably the hardest thing I ever had to do, voluntarily. I started thinking to myself…would she think I abandoned her? I wouldn’t be there when she needed a place to escape from her parents’ well-meaning nagging. Would we still remain close even though we couldn’t have our weekly Friday night sleepovers? Would she forget me completely? And even though he had been on his own for quite some time, I still had that nagging thought running in my head…would my son be alright without me being nearby? What if he needed me and I wasn’t there?

On the other hand, moving to Florida now made me closer to my oldest son, James, and his family. I was only an hour and a half away. I was looking forward to spending some time with them…getting to know my oldest grandson (who wasn’t quite 2 yet) and him getting to know me. Although my oldest son had been living away from home for some time, I was still excited about being only a short distance from them if he and his family ever needed me. You know to make a tray of lasagna, a pot of arroz con gandules or a pot of collard greens. Or just give them a little break so they can have a date night.

But now we were all going to be separate, having no idea when we would be together again. You see, for many years I had been a young divorced, single mother on my own. It was just the three of us…my sons and me. They were my world. Everything I did; every decision I made was with them in mind. Things weren’t always easy but through the years we stuck together. Eventually the boys developed lives of their own and I re-married. All the while we still had a very special bond. And whenever one of us needed help or advice in anyway the other two would always be there.

But with all that has been going on in the world of late, we were not able to spend any time together, in person, all in one place. I missed the three of us being together. Thank goodness for Facetime and Zoom or else we’d have forgotten what the other looked like.

And now suddenly our family was growing like crazy. My son in Florida & his wife had baby boy number two, Avery, in June. And my youngest son and his wife were expecting their second child, also a boy, in September. Three months apart. If there was any time for us to be together it was now. I ached for the time when we could all be together…laughing, talking and enjoying each other’s company to the fullest.

So late July, after a lot of planning and plotting I finally had a weekend with both my sons and their families. Everyone under the same roof, at the same time. After the year and a half we’ve all had, who knew when (or if) there’d be a time we could all come together…just to laugh, just to talk, just to love…just to be.

We had an amazing time together. And as great as technology is, it could not let me feel the love my granddaughter, Kaylah, showed me through her warm, tight hug when she got off the plane. Or replace the look on her face when she held her brand new cousin, Avery, for the very first time. Technology could not replace the warm feeling my youngest son felt when his oldest nephew, Jameson, grabbed his hand letting Kevin know he wanted to go with him as he was about to leave to run an errand.

I sat and watched my family around the dinner table as my granddaughter held the bottle for Avery to drink out of; as my grandson, Jameson, fed his mom his French fries, whether she wanted them or not; as my daughters-in-law sat with their heads together laughing and trading pregnancy stories and listening to my sons tease each other just like they did when they were kids. It all brought a smile to my face and a warmth in my heart I cannot begin to explain. And witnessing first-hand the fathers, husbands and uncles my sons had grown into made my heart sing. There was nothing like it. Nothing at all.

Later that night, when I convinced them to go out so I could spend some quality time with my grandchildren I held my new grandson, Avery, in my arms. He was the spitting image of my oldest son, James, at that age. I thought back to the day I brought James home from the hospital. I was young, naïve and had no clue what to do with this little human. Little did I know what lay ahead of us. Little did I know of the trials and tribulations we would go through. But what I did know was that I would do whatever it took to give him the best life I could.

Breathing in the baby smell that all babies seem to be born with, I looked down at Avery and wondered. What kind of life would he live? What would he be when he grew up? What would he do to make our world a better place? I closed my eyes and said a silent pray that he would be all that he was meant to be no matter what lay ahead of him.

It was then that my grandfather’s words came back to me. Whether things are good or bad we must count it all joy. For it is the ups and the downs we experience that build our character; that strengthen our reserve; that allows us to have empathy for others. I am eternally grateful for everything I have been through, because it has made me the person I am today. And because of the past I know that I am stronger, braver and more resilient than I ever thought I’d be.

I may not have done everything right. My life may not have been perfect. I may not be where I’d thought I’d be. But when I look at the blessings surrounding me, I know I must have done something right and for that I am truly grateful.

I looked around the table at what had been created as my grandfather’s legacy. I heard the laughter; I felt the love. Sometimes we look back on our struggles and we ask ourselves was it worth it? Was it worth the tears, the pain, the loneliness and the sacrifice? That weekend in July was one of those times that I asked myself those very questions. And as I watched my youngest son lean over to his very pregnant wife, who was struggling to find a comfortable position, he whispered something in her ear, she laughed, and then he gave her a soft, sweet forehead kiss. Was it worth it? I smiled to myself; gave a resounding “yes” and counted it all joy.

Thank you and God bless.

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