Thank you for the picture you sent me. I got it a bit over 45 years after you sent it, but I got it just when I needed to know it was there. On the back it said, “To Andie, so she can see her granny”.
The few memories of you that I have are gifts , those that held brightness and those that held confusion.
I remember an honesty that was painful to a child but later helped an adult find answers. You loved one of the sisters in my family best and it wasn’t me. I think I know why. Of us all, she was most like your son, our daddy. I think you knew what I would come to know that last day I saw him, only days before he died. But then, that truth only went to show another gift I got from you. It didn’t matter who you loved the best, I could love you just because I did.
I remember the records you gave us on one of our long treks back to Texas from the Northwest. Full size LP records of stories. Carol got Sleeping Beauty and I got William Tell. They came complete with background music from the orchestral scores of those pieces. Added to the Reader’s Digest set of LP’s mom and dad bought, your records helped me see the story in music, something I am able to share with my music student’s today. Carol grew out of her record but I never did. As long as I could keep them, they were a part of my memory of the best of childhood.
There is one other gift I remember from you. When I was 8 or 9, you came to visit us. I asked you to a picture of me or did you ask me? It doesn’t matter. I told you I wanted to be a bride in the picture. Your face only showed interest. A bride? But did I have a bride’s gown?
I had already learned something about color then. I had a light violet satiny dress in my dress-up box. And you had given me that soft pink sheer scarf that would make a perfect veil. Since the picture would be in black and white, that would do the trick. With no hesitation clear enough for a child to see you went along with my lofty plan. If this was my dream, you let it be my dream.
In my adult life I learned the stories of how your dreams fell apart. First a young husband dies. Then you married another who was violent when drinking. That last summer with dad, I learned you wore scars through your life. The last day with dad I learned your husband beat my dad too.
I am so glad you had the nonconformity to choose separation over the violence back in the 30’s. It would be an act that would take all your determination. I know from dad’s one story and his hatred for the peanut butter and banana sandwiches that filled his lunch every day, sometimes your independence took a stubborn turn of not being willing to let others help you.
But you didn’t stop dad from getting work to finance his dream of being an opera singer someday. You were a divorced woman trying to raise a son without alienating him from the dad he wanted to visit as much as he could. You didn’t stop him when he gave up his dream to go into the Navy. Did you recognize the resentment that he wouldn’t realize was locked inside of him until that last day when he tried to tell the story to the nurse?
Thank you, Granny, for leaving me with the innocence of my dreams on that childhood day.
Now it is my turn. I am the Granny with a grandson who is 4 and a granddaughter who is 18 months old. It is my turn to listen to them. To find my way through my own preferences and wishes for them, my own fears from the past so that I can give them the same room to dream their own dreams and live their own lives. Both are already showing such distinct characteristics. It is my turn to learn to silence my own comparisons so that I can give them each what they need from me.
You showed me that model though. When I was small I heard your favoritism and saw you show it. But when I was in my elementary school, you sent that picture to me. Did you know how much I needed it? Did you know because of that letter daddy sent you?
Daddy gave me another letter spoken in words that day in August 2011. In that story he told the nurse, the meandering of his thoughts entwined my story with yours. The nurse afterwards confirmed what I had heard. My sister confirmed it further by telling me the words you said that first day I called on Skype during the beginning of his hospice care. Daddy said, “When I see you, I see my mother.”
I asked my cousins who had lived with you how they would describe you. They remember happy memories, but more, they remember your most distinct traits as non-conformity, determination and independence. When I look back on my life I see how those characteristics helped me.
When I got home from that farewell to my dad and looked at the pictures I had been given , your picture to me was among them. “To Andie, So she can see her granny.” It sounds like you left a part of my granny in my life.
“When I see you, I see my mother.” I think that is one of the nicest compliments I have ever had.
Still and always loving you,
P.S. The night my daddy died I saw him with you in a dream. You were happy and laughing together.