Every Tuesday at 9 a.m. I pick up the phone and call her.
I dial her number, one I know by heart. Her name is Roberta. But I call her Nana Bert — my grandmother.
A few years ago, after my grandpa passed away, I told her I would do a better job of keeping in contact. At that point we only talked sporadically. Usually when she would call me.
With two young daughters, a husband rarely home, and miles and time zones between us, I had plenty of excuses for not doing a better job of keeping in touch.
None of them were very good.
That very first Tuesday, after the funeral, I pulled through the Starbucks drive-thru, ordered a Cinnamon Dolce Latte, and parked. With one hand I pushed a DVD into the player overhead for my youngest daughter, with the other I picked up my cell phone and called her.
Some weeks we talk about everyday life. She fills me in on my cousins, nieces and nephews, aunts and uncles. She catches me up on all the happenings at home and I fill her in on the latest from our family. Other weeks we reminisce about Grandpa George, family history, or the camping trips they took us on as kids.
We talk about the time my two cousins, sister, and I rolled down a hill laughing. Dust billowed into the air and filled our mouths as we rolled round and round, down, down. Nana had to give us sponge baths in the camper sink when we returned to camp covered in dirt. The white washcloth was caked with mud by the time it was my turn to get wiped down.
Some weeks I discover things I never knew. How my great-grandmother left her family and went to art school in San Francisco where she met and married my great-grandfather.
Nana Bert also left home to attend college in different state. There she met my grandpa, a Portuguese boy, born and raised in Hawaii, who was the first in his family to leave and attend college on the mainland.
Nana Bert and I, generations apart, participate in the oral tradition of our family. She passes it down to me and I will someday pass it down to my children and grandchildren.
As time goes on, I protect our time together. One week, I decline an invitation to meet a friend. “How sweet,” she says. “You’re such a good granddaughter.”
I am not. Not really. Perhaps in the beginning I called to be a good granddaughter, to hold up my end of the bargain, to fulfill the commandment “honor your father and (grand) mother,” but not anymore.
Something unexpected began to happen on Tuesday mornings.
As each month wore on, and then each year, over time, my call has become as much for me as it is for Nana Bert. God has taken what felt like duty and designed a delightful friendship. Whether ten minutes or two hours, I get to connect with her and it feels like coming home. Like when the wheels touch down after a long flight and everything on the ground is recognizable, comfortable, safe.
Independent, strong, brave, Christ followers: this is the legacy created for our family. Things I would have never known had I not picked up the phone every Tuesday at 9 a.m.
I will pass it down to my girls. I will whisper, It is in your blood, as they spread their wings and fly the nest, to seek their dreams, create stories and traditions of their own. And as I whisper I will be sure to remind them, to always call home.