Next week, my paternal grandmother will be 90 years old. Instead of buying a material gift, my extended family came up with the idea of presenting her a book. Each page in this book will have something written from each family member about Gramma. One of my aunts is handling the legwork for getting it done, and she asked us to have our contributions submitted by today.
In typical form, I chewed on it for a while, came up with a few ideas, jotted them down, chewed on it some more, and then at the last minute, pulled it out of my ass. (Relax, it’s a figure of speech, and one of my signature ones at that.)
I was actually semi-proud of my submission. Not because I’m Texas’s greatest writer (I’m not sure I write all that wonderfully), but because I was honest with a capital H. I wrote her a letter, spilling my guts every step of the way, and told her exactly what I thought of her. I told her everything I thought she needed to know. So, I thought I’d post it here as well, word-for-word.
My Dear Gramma,
First of all, Happy Birthday! And second…
I took so long to write this because I had to chew on exactly what to say. Even then, I know words will fail me.
This is because there simply aren’t adequate words to explain who you are to me and how you have shaped my life. Regardless, I’ll give it my best shot.
When I think of you, Gramma, I think of a spider’s silk. It is beautiful and delicate-looking, but stronger than stainless steel. It must be, to survive–and even thrive–in the elements. I think of a spitfire, a pioneer, someone who has weathered some of life’s greatest challenges and always bounced back, reinforced and stronger than before.
You and Grampa started your OWN business, navigating uncharted territory and blazing your own trail. Having been through this endeavor myself, I know that it takes a special kind of guts. You work ethic and gumption are unrivaled and admired.
And, there were the “little” things. They’re not exactly little, given the hours of time and amounts of energy they required, but you made it seem like it was hardly a big deal to perform acts of kindness and spend quality time interacting with your grandchildren. Your legendary Forgotten Kisses, your amusement when we played in the box houses all duct-taped together in the basement, your patience as we used up all your paper towel to make pleated curtains for our box townhouse row.
I have a long memory, thanks in part to you. Unlike most people, I vividly remember my second and third birthdays; the second birthday sitting at the bench table in the old donut trailer; the third in the dimness of your comfy motorhome, with a little birthday cake with three candles on it, blowing them out at your prompting to “make a wish!”.
And the games, Good Lord, the games. What started out as a childhood Connect 4 marathon that lasted late into the evening evolved into Dominos and card games at the “grown-up”‘s table in later years, complete with leaned-over whispered-under-the-breath explanations that the game called “Help Your Neighbor” was really called “S**t On Your Neighbor”. I still grin when I think of you, in an act of half-candidness and half-rebellion, saying a cuss word. Yep, that’s my spitfire Gramma, and I’m proud as all git-out.
Over the years, I have taken for granted all of the beautifully handwritten letters, keeping us up-to-date on the goings-on of distant family members, that accompanied each card and generous Christmas or birthday gift, complete with the heartwarming reminders to us college kids, “don’t spend it on gas for the car!” Such wise words. And I never did; instead, I always put it away and saved it for something meaningful. I cherished every one of those gifts. And I saved every one of those letters. I still have them all today. Given that we move around frequently these days, they’re “in a box”, or perhaps a file folder under Memorabilia, but they are there, just the same.
What I’ve expressed here is just a smattering of memories and information gleaned second-hand, as you are too humble to talk much about yourself. I’m glad you are starting to express more, and I’m glad you also have others that sing your praises for you (and they do, especially my parents), so that your amazing character does not remain a best-kept secret. While many families have dirty secrets, you are brimming with the type of secrets that any family would be proud to have. Your soul is deep, with many layers, and you’re golden to the core. We’re quite lucky that such a lady has also been blessed with longevity, for this world would not ever have been the same without you.