The Truth About Grandmothers

Yesterday, as I was scrolling through Facebook checking on my friends’ latest news, I noticed a post from a dear former student of mine. She wrote a very touching message about losing her 94-year-old grandmother. I read it, and her words resonated with me.

My brother and me along with my parents and both sets of grandparents.

So often as a writer, I’m asked what influences my stories and where the ideas come from. I suppose anyone who writes novels or nonfiction answers this the same way—the stories typically come from people we know or stories we have heard or read about in the news. There are people and personal acquaintances that influence our storytelling.

And then there are grandmothers.

If you’ve read any of my novels, you might notice that in four of my five books, there is a grandmother who plays a rather large role in the novels, albeit different roles. In Beneath the Mimosa Tree, it was Vivi, Annabelle’s grandmother, who helps her navigate her relationship with Michael. In Inn Significant, it’s Milly’s late grandmother Rosa (Nana), whose journal Milly finds in the basement of the Inn. And in Little Milestones, Olivia moves in with her grandmother, Nan, in St. Michaels, Maryland. Additionally, in my short story collection The Postcard, there are stories about grandmothers.

Vince and Elizabeth (Betty) Parrillo, my dad’s parents.

Just as my former student wrote in her Facebook post, grandmothers play a significant role in our lives. I loved both of my grandmothers and was lucky to be able to get to know them before they passed away. I have incredibly vivid memories of them and appreciated how they loved my brother and me and doted on us. My children, ages 19 and 21, are blessed to have all four of their grandparents in their lives, and they have always played an active role since the kids were infants.

Eleanor and Angelo DeMarco, my mom’s parents.

Grandmothers influence us in ways that we may not even be conscious of at the time. Their presence in our lives adds depth, a special layer, and they—whether by design or by nature—make us want to be better people to make them proud. And even when we’re at our lowest point, they may worry, but they rarely judge. In essence, they support.

Blurry, but still special. Nanny and me—high school graduation.

I’m always so sorry to read someone’s post about losing a grandmother (or grandfather). You can hear the love in the words they write as well as the deep sorrow of relaying their passing.

I own quite a few things that were passed down from Eleanor (my Nanny) that I treasure, from Christmas decorations to an old blanket she made to two special rings she gave to me before she died. As well, my grandmothers live on through my daughter Ellie, who is named after both grandmothers: Eleanor Elisabeth.

And although my grandparents have been gone for quite some time at this point in my life, I still miss that they are no longer around and would have loved to have seen the delight on their faces at having great-grandchildren.

So, I supposed for me, the simple truth about grandmothers is that I do my best to have their memories live on both through my children and my storytelling.



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