Your Family Law Lawyer’s Thoughts About Fall, Football, and Her Nana

The last few days, I feel the fall in the air. Do you? The mornings are cooler, and the days are shorter. Football is on TV, and Halloween will be here before we know it.

 

I feel like drinking Pumpkin Spice Lattes and making chile.

 

As I write this post, it is over 100 degrees outside. 106 to be exact. My skin is moist with sweat, but still, I want to get a blanket, snuggle up on the couch and read a good book.

 

That’s what I do when fall is in the air.

 

The last few days, I am also very emotional. I have been crying, but haven’t been sure why. My husband has been worried. So worried, he actually suggested I spend an entire day at the mall by myself to get my head together.

 

That was awesome.

 

I still felt sad when I got back, though.

 

Today, I finally put two and two together.

The air feels just like it did the day my Nana died. October 1, 2005. She was 81.

 

I called my Mom’s mom Nana. In a lot of ways, Nana didn’t play by the rules as far as grandmothers go.

 

When we went to visit her during the summers, she would get out on the tennis court and hit the ball with us “ninos” (that’s what she called us). She thought the point of the game was to hit the ball as high and as far as we possibly could. It was pretty cool being able to smack the ball over the fence without getting chewed out by someone.

 

During one visit, Nana taught me and a couple of my girl cousins how to drive her and Papa’s used Cadillac. My oldest cousin, Angela, couldn’t have been more than 14. I was jealous, because Nana actually let Angela get behind the wheel and cruise the dirt roads in town. Even though I was a little nervous about Angela being in control of a car and not knowing what she was doing, Nana was as cool as a cucumber, even when Angela nearly drove us into a ditch.

 

The summer days at Nana’s house were lazy and carefree. She let us jump on the bed. We stayed up late. We raided her refrigerator whenever we felt like it.

 

By the time I had finished my first year in law school, my Papa had died, leaving Nana to fend for herself. Nana was living alone in Prescott Valley, so of course, when I was hired as a law clerk by an attorney in Prescott, I lived with Nana.

 

My experience with Nana as an adult was the same as when I was a kid. Even though I was 23, I would never stop being her grandchild. She wanted to make sure I had everything I needed; she still insisted on ironing my work clothes, cooking my meals, and putting my feet up on the couch while she slaved away somewhere in the house. We spent our evenings watching “Malcolm in the Middle,” and I’d laugh when SHE would laugh at slasher flicks on cable TV.  (I just know she would loooove Walter White.)

 

Nana wanted Mom to “give” me to her (Nana). Although Nana was born in Jerome, she was an old-school Mexican. According to my Mom, in some Mexican families, it wasn’t uncommon for children to “give” their parents one of the grandchildren just as Nana had wanted. Apparently, the purpose was to make sure that the grandmothers (or grandfathers) were cared for in their old age by the grandchild.

 

Mom told Nana she was crazy if she thought I would be given to her. Mom insisted that my life was my own. Nana never gave up asking, though. Even as I made my way through law school.

 

As old-fashioned as she was, Nana was also independent and strong. Up until the last years of her life, she was a working woman; she was one of the cleaning ladies at the Yavapai Regional Medical Center in Prescott, the hospital where I was born. When she received a lump sum settlement resulting from my Papa dying from cancer years earlier, Nana fought my Mom tooth and nail because she wanted to buy a PT Cruiser with the money. Although she would never admit it, we think Nana had a boyfriend named Howard in her 70s.

 

Nana had a stroke in 2003. That was the end of her life as we all knew it. For most of two years, she was alert, but she had to live in a nursing home in Prescott Valley because she needed around the clock care.

 

During the first week of October in 2005, Nana died.

 

The evening of her wake, I had worked a full day. After office appointments and court, I started the one and a half hour drive to Prescott for Nana’s Rosary that night and the funeral the next day. I was looking forward to seeing my aunts, uncles, and cousins that I had missed for years.

 

The day I headed for Prescott felt just like the day feels today. It felt like fall.

 

Personally, I felt relief. Relief from the scorching heat of the Arizona summer. Relief to “get away” from work for a couple of days without feeling guilty. Relief from Nana finally letting go so she could be at peace.

 

As I made the evening drive from Cordes Junction towards Prescott Valley, twilight began to envelope me and my little silver car. As I thought of my Nana and sang along with the radio, something happened. Under normal circumstances, I would have been super upset at what happened.

 

Not that day, though.

 

What happened was that my car engine just died. Caput. No smoke. No forewarning. One minute it was running. Then it wasn’t.

 

My Very. Reliable. German Motor. Died.

 

I veered off to the side of the road. I tried to get it to start. Nothing.

 

I pulled out my phone to call someone. No signal. Stranded.

 

I knew right then I would miss my Nana’s Rosary. Strangely, I felt at peace.

 

Out of nowhere, a monarch butterfly landed on my windshield. I felt as though the butterfly was there to keep me company while I waited for help. I felt that this little butterfly somehow was there to protect me.

 

I felt as though that butterfly was my Nana.

 

I looked at her. She looked at me. We waited together.

 

All was well. During this time spent on the side of the deserted highway outside the town where she lived, I was able to say goodbye to my Nana.  I was at peace, because I knew she was, too.

 

After waiting for at least an hour, I saw a little truck whiz by, then turn around and come back. It was my cousin, David, also running late for the Rosary. Thank God he saw me.

 

David picked me up, and we caught up with each other as we headed to Prescott to catch the last five minutes of Nana’s Rosary.

 

My childhood would not have been the same except for my Nana. I would not be the same adult but for my Nana. As I look at the beautiful picture of her as a young woman, I remember her in my mind’s eye.

 

Running on the tennis court. Laughing. Breaking life’s rules.

 

Nana.

 

Are you a Nana? Do you have a Nana that you adore? How do you feel about your grandchildren? Do you know someone who wants to have a relationship with their grandchildren but can’t?

 

If so, there are laws that can help. Check out this week’s featured Hernandez Family Law blog post about third party custody and visitation rights over children (See Stepparents “Stepping Up”-Third Party Custody Rights in Arizona.) Not only do some stepparents have rights to visitation with children, but so do some aunts, uncles, and yes…nanas, too.

 

Leave a comment below and tell me about your experiences with your grandparents or as a grandparent. How have those experiences molded you? Is there anything you would change?

 

Sending you my wishes for a week filled with the type of love only a Nana would know how to give.

 

All my best,

Wendy

 

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