Friday, September 5, 2008

Letter to Grandma

Thank you to Kristen and Virginia for keeping us posted on the latest in Palinography! I've been in another zone here in Chicago, mourning my grandmother, though I have watched The Speeches and pretty much want to PUKE.

Anyway, thought I'd share some of where my head has been these past few days by posting a letter I wrote to my grandmother and read at her funeral. I'm back in action next week.

Dear Grandma,

Because death is like that, I can't quite absorb the fact that you're no longer here so I'm writing you this letter as if I'm off at camp and you're simply back home, knitting. I remember all the letters you wrote me at camp, and later at college and into adulthood--with their beautiful script and news about the weather in Chicago and lines like "not much going on here" and "counting the days until I see you again."

You were a fixture in my life, as were your brisket made with onion soup mix and our visits to Indian Trail restaurant to see our favorite waitress Inga, our travels to England, and later our shared high teas at The Drake.

I remember eclaires and truffles and sleepovers and talking back to the evening news. I remember Tonelli's and your neighbor Shirley with the funny last name and the way you would take me around to your "beauty operator" and the salesladies at Loehmans.

"This is my granddaughter," you'd say, beaming.

"Oh," they'd say. "Your grandmother is always talking about you."

As a teenager, I remember talking to my friends about you. I'd tell them how stylish my grandmother was and how cool you were because you volunteered at LINKS, a clinic that provided counseling and contraception to teens.

In college, our conversations turned to love and politics and I grew interested in the YOU of you. As an adult, I learned that you weren't always easy, and that it must have been hard, sometimes, to be you.

As you grew older, and friends and loved ones died or moved away and you grew more isolated, I felt your sadness and your loneliness and wished I could help fill your longing. But I couldn't, and we couldn't, and I learned to cultivate compassion. I tried to wrap my love around you from afar the way your afghans always warmed me.

And now, I have your afghans and hats and scarves to remember you by, and your letters to me, which I have kept. The last one you wrote just a month ago, in slightly shakey hand but with a beaming heart. You had just returned from my wedding, and I was so glad to have had you there, as was Marco, who I am so glad you had a chance to love.

"Dearest Debbie," you wrote. "No one has ever been to such a wonderful wedding. There are no ways to tell you how wonderful we felt just to be together and watch the simcha and feel so much a part of it. Needless to say you were all gorgeous. I'll never forget how you all looked and shared your warmth and love. I hope that happiness and all good things will always come to you. Accept my wedding gift to you and my hope for a great and glorious life."

I don't really believe in an afterlife, but I believe that spirits live on in our heart. And so my wish for you Grandma is that your spirit finds peace and rest after this too quick and sometimes painful journey called life. I will carry you forward in my heart, and hopefully, with some help, in my genes. And if one day I am lucky enough to become a grandmother, I hope that I can be one like you -- generous, reassuring, kind, warm as a just-baked roll at Indian Trail or a cup of high tea at The Drake. And one who lets her granddaughter know daily how very deeply and thoroughly she is loved.



Anonymous said...

That was beautiful.

Courtney said...

I'm so sorry for your loss D. This letter is so touching.

Paul Rutter said...

Terrific letter, thanks for sharing.

Claire said...

What a wonderful tribute to your grandmother. I'm sorry for your loss.

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