As You Are

10857995_10203269350630921_3304702117064567952_nDear Grandma Cook,

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.

Happy birthday.

Love,  Teri Lynn

13 thoughts on “As You Are

  1. Catherine

    Lovely Teri! Hope all is going swell. I have a letter in my heart to my grandmother who died at the wheel when I was tiny. She was a head nurse called Olga who liked her gin and fought off her husband for most of my mother’s childhood. The police were often called. We were not allowed to speak of her and I learnt to hate Mini Cooper cars. How crazy is that?


  2. amyg

    I love the form you took for this post, the personal letter, the style, the honesty. so powerful.

    it makes me consider letters i should be writing now instead of later.

    my grandmothers were/are such powerful figures in my life. i stayed with my mother’s mom every single weekend until jr. high. my father’s mother, who is still alive, is who i think of when i think of trying to emulate someone with more resiliency than i.

    my great-grandmother, on my father’s side, lived to be 105. once she told my mother’s mom about me: “She turned out alright for being born on both sides of the fence.” (“both sides of the fence” meaning my parents were not married when i was conceived.)

    1. Teri Post author

      105. My word. And I will second your great-grandmother. She’s right. You did turn out alright indeed, both sides of the fence and all. 🙂

  3. donnaeve

    I think out of all my childhood memories, not having a Grandmother I could get close to is the thing I miss most. My mother’s mother was all the way up in Maine and she would have been very loving and it would have been wonderful to know her more than I did. What I remember of her is me sitting on the foot rests of her wheelchair and her wheeling me about the house. And then her short time in a nursing home before she passed. I was eight.

    My father’s mother lived less than a mile down the road from us. For whatever reason, my mother was intent on making sure I knew she didn’t love my brother or me the way she loved her other grandchildren. I never knew how to act around her b/c of that even though she always hugged me and said, “Donna, I’m SO glad you came to see me!” My mother intentionally alienated my brother and me from her b/c SHE felt alienated, I guess.

    I love that you and your grandmother spent time together after you were older. The time you describe above makes what could have been a sad post less so.

  4. joplingirl

    Oh Teri. Tenderly looking back at someone who looks so like you. And yet isn’t you. The distance is palpable. And the desire for connection. You are in the space of grace. I love your writing.

  5. patricia

    This is a lovely letter to your grandmother. Surely she knows how you feel. I think we all wish we had known our grandmother(s) better. I certainly do. Written letters are so personal. Thank you for sharing your life with your readers.

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