I’ve always been a little envious of people who had special names for their grandparents. My nephew calls his maternal grandmother “Maga.” I’m not sure of the origin but we were all concerned he would end up dyslexic (he didn’t) since it sounded like “Grandma” backwards. My mom called one of her grandmothers “Blah-blah.” Not as endearing as “Maga” but “Blah-blah” obviously thought so because that’s how she signed all my mom’s birthday cards. My nieces and nephews called my Grandma Teetsel “Gigi,” the initials for Great Grandma (G.G.) I only ever called both my grandparents, Grandma and Grandpa which I always thought as boring. However things could have ended up a lot differently for my Grandma Teetsel (my paternal grandmother) if if Grandma Broschard (my maternal grandmother) hadn’t intervened.
Up until age 3 I actually did have my own special name for Grandma Teetsel. I called her “Granny.” I’m not sure that was the name she would have picked for herself, evidenced by my early birthday cards where she signed herself as “Nana,” the name my father called his grandma. Looking back I would have been happy with “Nana” but thanks to early exposure to The Beverly Hillbillies I adopted the name “Granny” for my Grandma Teetsel. Everyone seemed happy with that until my other grandparents came out from New York for a visit.
We were driving home from picking up my mom’s parents and her brother Robert, from the airport. I was sitting in the backseat, silently enamored by my beautiful and elegant “New York grandmother.” Getting ready to say something about her long red fingernails which I found fascinating, I took a deep breath and innocently quipped, “Granny?”
My remaining thought was instantly banished by the snicker of my Uncle Robert, who was only 9 at the time. “Karen just called Mom, Granny,” he announced to the rest of the car. “Like The Beverly Hillbillies.” Everyone in the car thought it was just as funny as Uncle Robert, except my grandmother and me. I was confused and my grandmother was annoyed.
She was also adamant. She turned to me and said, in a most un-grandmotherly way, “Let’s get something straight right now. You can call me Grandma or you can call me Mrs. Broschard. But you won’t be calling me Granny.”
I solemnly accepted the order and for day churned the moment away in my mind. According to my 3 year old logic I decided that maybe “Granny” wasn’t such a good thing to be calling anyone.
A few weeks later I found myself standing in the doorway of my Grandma Teetsel’s kitchen in turmoil asking her what I should call her. It was an awkward conversation, even for a 3 year old, but I was determined to settle this once and for all. “You can call me whatever you like” Granny…er…Grandma Teetsel told me kindly and so we settled on Grandma.
At the time I figured Grandma Teetsel was just being nice and like my other grandmother did not like being called “Granny” either but looking back now I wonder. It probably never mattered to her.
It probably didn’t really matter to my Grandma Broschard either now that I think about it. Her reaction was not directed at me personally. All those years I thought she was mad at me for calling her Granny. I realize now she wasn’t mad, she was shocked at the fact that she was a grandmother. She was a good 10 years younger than Grandma Teetsel and still had children living at home.
The one thing I do know now is that grandparents are the epitome of unconditional love. They may have certain ideals of how they should be named by their grandchildren but in the end it doesn’t matter. Because as all four of my grandparents taught me, they will love their grandchildren no matter what.