Saturday, January 23, 2010
My paternal grandmother was nothing short of a Renaissance woman. She was athletic, playing golf (and usually beating the men - pre-Women's PGA) and bowling. She was a great cook. She was a gifted artist, usually trying one medium after another, brilliant in whatever she attempted. I still keep a knitted blanket made by her on rocking chair in my room. She sewed, painted china, made dolls, and ultimately she sculpted, a craft that allowed us to finally really know her.
About the time I was in middle school my sisters and I started going to grandma's house for craft hour. We would paint pre-made figurines and she would fire them in her kiln. As we got older we started working with clay and making our own sculptures. Her sculptures were clearly more refined than ours but she had a gift for making us feel like we were brilliant artists as well. We would drink fruit punch, eat frozen pound cake, and she would listen to our stories. I can still picture her hands and her wrists - always wearing a bracelet. They were not unlike my own wrists - not skinny, like my sister's.
At some point during this time Grandma started experiencing health problems - mysterious symptoms that put her through test after test after test. The final miserable reality was that Grandma had ALS - better known as Lou Gehrig's disease. Tuesdays With Morrie paints a vivid picture of what dying from ALS is like. Though her body began to fail her, her mind was still in tact. Within, what I remember as about two years from the onset of symptoms, she was gone. Poof. I was sixteen. She was sixty two.
Today, nearly fifteen years later, cleaning my room and going through an old journal, I happened upon an envelope addressed in script to "Sarah". Deep breath. The letter.
My Dear Sarah,
My first perfect granddaughter. How I've loved you from the first day of your life. I'm so proud of you. You have given me so much joy.
Keep on enjoying your art and your sports. The more things you have fun doing the better life is.
I'll be going away on a trip but will be with you always.
Her handwriting was already labored by the time she wrote this. It was her only means of communication at that point. Her voice was gone and her face couldn't show any expression. Her written words move me to tears to this day. If only everyone had the forethought or time to write a letter like this.
The grief is still there. The pain is still real. We lost her too young. But lately I have been thinking of her - and reading the letter again heals me a little more.
For my other incredible grandmother see here.