Last week, I experienced an almost spiritual moment of gratitude. I was at a concert, a Tool concert to be specific. As I stood in the 12th row, my hair literally blowing from the sound waves (maybe I should have worn earplugs?), I was overtaken by sadness when I thought about my late grandma.
Yes, my grandma. At a Tool show. I know it’s strange, but stay with me here.
I realized how much she would have loved it, and how I wish I had taken her to a rock concert before she passed away in 2003. I imagined her throaty giggle as the sound waves vibrated in her chest. Her eyes full of excitement from the drummer’s insane solo as it ricochets around the arena. I could easily imagine this experience moving her to tears.
My grandma was deaf. She had scarlet fever as an infant and it stole her hearing. She grew up in the WWII era, and was sent to a deaf school. Her parents and siblings did not learn sign language. As was common at that time, deafness was associated with a lack of intelligence, and deaf folks were relegated to low-wage jobs and sub-standard education. She grew up, married a deaf man, and they had four hearing children. They refused to teach any of the children sign language for fear the kids would have the same stigma attached to them.
My mother was one of those four, and she and I learned to sign when I was eight. Grandma gave me a Sesame Street signing book, and she was so thrilled when I was able to tell her what I was learning about in school. I’d show her my favorite signs over and over, like dream, turtle, and grandma, but she never tired of it. Although I was (and still am) a horrible speller, she pretended to understand what I finger-spelled to her. She had the most amazing laugh, because it was complete abandon every time. Guttural, loud, and full of life. She didn’t know about “indoor voices”. Just recalling the sound of it makes me laugh thirteen years after I heard it last.
My favorite memory of her is when I took her to a doctor appointment, and blasted Snoop Dogg from the stereo as we drove. I look over, and there is my grandma, bobbing her head and tapping her foot to the bass vibration in the car. She asked me what kind of music it was and when I told her, I was rewarded with her best laugh ever.
Not long before she passed, she got new hearing aides. We gathered at my mom’s house to fill out and send my wedding invitations. My mom messed up on one of the envelopes, so she crumpled it up in a ball and tossed it aside. Grandma’s eyes got huge!
“What was that noise?” She signed.
“It was the envelope,” I told her and replicated the crumple action.
“Paper makes noise?!?” She asked, totally astounded. She’d heard the crumple sound for the first time.
Imagine that. Imagine not knowing that virtually everything makes some sort of noise. Imagine how wondrous each sound would be as you discovered it for the first time at the age of 63. Then she heard my mother’s (her daughter’s) laugh for the first time and she cried.
That’s why I know she would have loved the Tool show. She’d have loved the vibration of the music, the feeling of a sold out crowd united by what they are hearing. She didn’t get to experience music, or her childrens’ laughter, or the sound of thunder or ocean waves.
So when I was at the Tool show, being bombarded with amazing guitar riffs, the gratitude hit me. We are so lucky. Fortunate. Blessed. I try really hard not to take experiences for granted. In my opinion, they are the most important thing. Possessions are only things that lose their shine and usefulness over time, but experiences teach you, they broaden you, and they make you more interesting. Plus, they don’t go out of style and they can’t break like things do.
Have some experiences that push you and scare you a little. Do the things you have passion for. Do ALL the things. Don’t squander the chance to enjoy every moment of life. It’s the simplest experiences that can give us the most happiness. Don’t forget to be present.
What are your favorite adventures? What’s on your bucket list? How do you savor you life? Let’s share!