anne mikolay 2012 120They say you can't miss something you've never had. I'm here to tell you that's not true. I've never had grandparents present in my life, and I miss them.

As a child, on the few occasions I saw my maternal grandparents, their thick Scottish brogues were incomprehensible to me, and I was a bit afraid of them. Thus, my memories of them are few. My Grandpa John once told me that when his ship from Scotland first sailed into New York harbor, he thought The Statue of Liberty was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen. He played soccer in Scotland, wore a kilt, and claimed to believe in Nessie, the Loch Ness Monster. And that, my friends, is the sum total of my experiences with my Grandpa. I knew even less about my Nana, Jane. Jane, a frail, sickly woman always in a sweater with handkerchiefs stuffed in the sleeve, didn't say very much. When I was three or four, she taught me to peel a banana. In later years, when she was lost to senility, the sound of bagpipes briefly pulled her back to us, and she clapped and smiled. There was a gentleness to both Nana and Grandpa. She had soft hair, pretty eyes. His eyes twinkled. There's nothing much more I can say about them.

I can say even less about my paternal grandparents, Margaret and Lawrence, who passed away before I was born. As “Daddy's little girl,” I constantly wondered about his parents. For personal reasons, Dad didn't talk about his folks; they were merely names to me until the internet opened the door to genealogical research and connected me with cousins who willingly shared family history. Margaret, the daughter of Irish immigrants, had many siblings and grew up in a New York tenement. Hers must have been the “typical” immigrant experience. Lawrence was descended from Irish immigrants as well; his grandfather served in the Civil War. For a time, Lawrence was a track walker for the New York subway system. These things are mere facts, dry, lifeless information that does not tell me who my paternal grandparents were. I will wonder about their personalities, hopes, and dreams for the rest of my life.

I wonder, too, what Margaret and Lawrence, John and Jane, would have thought about me. What personality traits, talents, or tendencies did I inherit from them? I search the few photos I have of my grandparents to find my own face and am consistently disappointed when I see no resemblance. There is nothing much uniting me to my grandparents other than basic familial connection. I long to have a photograph of them with me, long for assurance I mattered to them. Time and Fate have determined I will have neither.

If your grandparents are an active part of your life, you thankfully can't relate to my position, but for those of us who have never had this often undervalued gift, there are blank pages in our personal histories where those special people should have been. Whoever said you can't miss something you've never had is very wrong.

Grandparents should be remembered and not just on Grandparents Day (September 13th). If you're lucky enough to have your grandparents with you, give them a big hug. More importantly, be totally present in the moment when they hug you back.