My first semester of an out-of-state college I rushed to my mailbox everyday for letters from home. Most of the time it was empty, but I sure was excited when there was something there. I remember one of the first letters I found in that tiny little mailbox from an address I knew like the back of my hand. Grandma Willie had written me. I opened that letter like it was the last one the post office would ever deliver. You’d think the envelope was a delicate artifact looking at the time I spent carefully tearing across its seam. I wanted to savor it. When I finally got to the two folded sheets of paper, I smiled reading her confident and spunky words. She offered encouragement for everything she knew I was going through and filled me in on all the goings on back in Edmond, Oklahoma.
“I know you have probably met a lot of nice students. (Don’t hang around any who aren’t nice!) You can go out with a boy to have a Coke once in a while, but don’t let him hold your hand. He’ll get ideas!” I remember laughing through tears when I read that part.
There’s something so special about knowing where you came from. Moreover, loving and admiring those people and that history is an irreplaceable way to feel like an important part of something much bigger than yourself. Grandma Willie has always been one of those people that I could look at and say, “well, I must be pretty neat if she had anything to do with me.” She was determined to finish nursing school and become a professional in a time when women weren’t encouraged to have jobs. She played basketball long before Title IX, and Lord knows it had to be hard for her in that 5’3″ frame. She also did a pretty good job of raising three children through some difficult times.
Before I knew all that though, I liked her. She is definitely a fun Grandma. She hunts easter eggs, squirts water guns, picks blackberries, plays games, bakes cookies and tells stories. Hanging out with her has always been a treat, and she always makes me feel that she feels the same about spending time with me. I don’t live a mile down the road from her anymore so I don’t get to see her nearly as much as I would like to, but I still feel just as close. For as much as she gives me, it’s only fair that I should let her know I appreciate it. We need to remember where we came from before we get too caught up in where we are.
Tomorrow, September 11, is Grandparents’ Day. To celebrate, I think giving her one of those thoughtful hand-written letters is appropriate. I know her back has been hurting and her house is a bit emptier since all of us grandkids have grown up. I hope my words make her half as happy as hers made me feel when I was feeling a bit sad. “Hang in there. You’re going to make it, and it will be so-o-o good. Love you a bunch, Grandma Willie.”