When I got home last night from work, I grabbed the mail that had arrived and found two envelopes. Both were cards from my grandparents (father's side). One to DF and I for our wedding and one to me for my birthday.
My grandparents are simple, salt of the earth folks. Grandma is the daughter of Italian immigrants, raised in a series of foster homes and married young to get away from it all. Grandpa signed up for the Army at 18 and caught the very tail-end of World War 2 before coming back to settle down with Grammy. He worked in a factory job for his adult life before being laid off right before his retirement would kick in. Grandma raised 5 kids including a youngest son that was born with birth defects that meant he spent most of his childhood in and out of hospitals having surgery. If it weren't for the Shriners, my uncle probably would not be able to walk.
My memories of my grandparents come mainly from letters and pictures and from my dad's stories. My family lived across the planet and didn't get to visit more than for a week or so every four or five years. I remember Grandma's homemade spaghetti and meatballs (took all day to cook and made the house smell divine) and grandpa's proclivity to take out his dentures and make funny faces at us. Grandma had a job at Sears to bring in extra income and in his later years (post lay-off) Grandpa worked as a janitor to make ends meet. Now they are both in an assisted living apartment, working days finished due to the onset of old age and illness. I keep telling myself that I will drive the 10 or 12 hours up to see them, but life always gets in the way.
Ever since I can remember, right around my birthday I have received a card with a ten-dollar bill carefully taped inside. Each and every year. In Indonesia, in Mali. Even now as an adult, long after the time when I would anticipate getting anything birthday related, the cards arrive like clockwork. I know that ten dollars for each of their ten grandchildren is a sacrifice and I almost wish I could send it back and say, no please...you need this money more than I. But I am their granddaughter and this is their gift to me.
Today I have ten dollars to spend on myself. And I'm infinitely richer because of the love of my family.