Yesterday I learned that December 18 is your birthday. You would have been 89 years old.
When I was growing up, you lived over on Dallas Street. I knew this because we drove by once and my mom said, casually, “That’s where your dad’s family lives.” Your brick house had a front porch and, if I remember right, you had a hair salon in the back. You spent your days making people pretty.
You used to mail me birthday cards with $5 inside and you signed them Love, Grandma Cook. Your cards always arrived on time, but I never once thanked you. Sometimes we lived close enough that I could have just walked right over all by myself on a summer day and climbed the porch steps and knocked, but I was afraid he might be there and boy, wouldn’t that be weird. I think you understood that.
When I was little I sometimes imagined you lifting me into a big salon chair and saying “this is my granddaughter” and telling me to sit still while you twirled my chair and put pink curlers in my hair and made me pretty, too.
When I found out today was your birthday, I wondered how I’ve been on this earth almost 50 years and never knew your birthday. You’re a Sagittarius and I’m a Leo. We are both fire signs, did you know that? My mom told me you had a free smile and were a generous hugger, even of strangers. Maybe I get those things from you.
I looked up your obituary in the newspaper. It says you died on November 6, 2009. It says you owned and operated a beauty salon for 31 years. It says you are survived by 16 grandchildren. I wonder if I’m counted as one of them.
I saw you less than 10 times, I think. But I always called you Grandma and you called me Teri Lynn and you made me feel welcome, like it was normal for me to be in your house, sitting on your couch of an evening, even when we both knew it wasn’t. When I got older and called you up, often after years of silence, you’d say, Come right over, come as you are! and I’d drive over and park out front and walk in without knocking and we’d sit in the living room and visit like old friends. We drank iced tea or a Coca Cola. One time we split a ham sandwich. You never mentioned my dad unless I asked, and I appreciated that. In 2002, when my mom was dying you tracked me down at the hospital and, since your husband had died of the same disease, spent the afternoon explaining the details I couldn’t get out of the doctors of what was going to happen and what I could do to get through it. I loved you for that.
I know it’s too late, but thank you for all the birthday cards. Thank you for being a smiler and a hugger, and for passing that on, in me.
Thank you for not forgetting me.
Love, Teri Lynn