Since my son came into our lives, we made it a tradition to visit my grandmother between Christmas and New Year. She lives in a small town in Bavaria called Gunzenhausen, the kind of quiet and neat place where people enjoy their routines and love it when nothing changes. Streets look the same, shops look the same, restaurants offer the same menus year after year. The hotel where we stay has been using the same napkins for breakfast for the last ten years. Life is slow in Gunzenhausen. But it's perfect for someone who never knew what slow was, for more than 60 years.
My favorite thing when I visit my grandma is to spend time with her in the kitchen, helping her cook or wash the dishes and listen to all her stories and memories from the past. At 86, I notice that she gets more emotional as she recalls certain life moments. I am not sure if the reason why the strong emotions come to surface is the event itself, or rather the haunting thought that she might not have the chance to tell that story again.
One evening after dinner, my grandma brought a large yellow binder and placed it on the kitchen table. "Here are all my family documents. From the church," she said. "You can see my family tree for five generations." Her father was born in 1901, her mother in 1902, both from Saxon families living in Ghimbav (Weidenbach) near Brasov, Romania. Her mother had her when she was 35, two years before World War II started and their lives would change forever. Her parents separated when she was very young and in 1945 when the war was over, her father was deported to Russia. When my grandma was 10 she lost her mother because of an untreated pneumonia, so she ended up being raised by an aunt. They were so poor that she could not afford going to high school, so she had to drop school and start working at age 15. She met my grandfather when she was 18. They both loved to dance. She thought her life would finally change for the better. But more hardships came along. She got married and had my mom when she was just 20 years old. Because my grandfather was an army officer, they had to move from place to place with a small child, until they finally settled in Tg-Mures. Life continued to be hard during communism when there was never enough of anything: never enough money, never enough food, only stress, struggle for survival and never ending work. She must have been blessed with some Jedi blood, otherwise I cannot explain where that inner force came from. An inner force so strong that despite all the hardship, it always propelled her forward, like an invisible rocket.
Maybe we all have such a inner force, but for some of us it's still dormant. We just need a good enough reason to activate it. We need a purpose and a mission outside our immediate needs and interests. For my grandmother, that purpose was her family. She wanted us to have a better life than she had. When she talks about me and Sam, her eyes radiate with pride and happiness at the thought that it was all worth it.
Fulfillment must be such a great feeling. When you can simply say, "I have enough" and "I am enough". No more tension in your muscles, no clenched jaws, just a smile and a feeling of lightness.