A “Memories of My Grandparents” special essay from a GRAND Magazine reader
By Kendahl Cruver
My mom used to take my sister and me to visit Grandma every Friday. Grandma would make us grilled cheese sandwiches with American cheese and let us run wild in the backyard. We’d sometimes go out to lunch. When we did, she’d always carried her posh leather purse and pointed her index finger down in an elegant fashion as she walked. She got her hair done every week, and she preferred slacks to dresses and skirts. This was the grandma I knew for about 18 years.
Then I started college, and I got to know Grandma in a different way. I sent her a card for something, I can’t remember exactly what, but it pleased her, and she responded with a two-page letter. It was the first time she’d ever mailed me a letter. It made me feel so grown-up. I was used to her sending birthday cards with cartoon animals on the front.
She told me about how her tomatoes were growing and that she’d walked to a café near my grandparents’ house to have lunch. I responded with my own letter, and soon we had settled into a somewhat regular correspondence. Grandma would still send me cards, and sometimes I’d just get an envelope with an interesting article or a coupon for gum inside, but for the most part she wrote letters.
I was surprised by some the things I learned from those letters. Though I thought Grandma was content with her daily routine, it turned out she was a bit restless. She’d never learned to drive, and being limited to walking to the shops near her house bothered her more than I’d realized. I also learned that she wished she’d gone to college and been a bit more adventurous with her life. As good as she was in the kitchen, she’d also grown tired of cooking — except for desserts. At least the sweet tooth wasn’t a surprise.
There were also happy, familiar things in the letters. She liked to shop and go to the bakery for a Danish and coffee. Her hairdresser amused her, and she was fond of the crazy neighborhood cat that would hang around my grandparents’ house. She also loved to talk about the family and what everyone was doing.
It was fascinating to develop a more intimate, adult relationship with Grandma. I stopped taking her for granted and began to understand a lot more about her perspective. She also spoke more about her love for me than she ever had in person. Some of her words really touched me, like the time she ended a letter with, “You are a sweet girl and I know wherever you go you will be loved.” That phrase has bolstered my confidence many times.
We kept up our correspondence until I graduated from college and we lived in the same city again. I can’t remember if we ever talked about the letters, but I have the feeling they meant a lot to her. I know they were important to me. I still have a stack of them and I’ve re-read them many times over the years.
Now I have a 4-year-old daughter, Helena. She sees my mom two days a week. I’m sure, even at her age, she feels she knows her grandma very well.
One night, when I encouraged Helena to help me send a few thank-you cards, she decided she wanted to send a picture she had drawn to her grandma. I showed her how to mail a letter, and every once in a while she’ll ask to send another. She likes to send her grandma emails as well. Sometimes she’ll dictate to me, but mostly I just help her to choose long strings of animated emoticons.
I always think about my grandma when my daughter sends these messages to my mom. I wonder how they will communicate when she starts school, and particularly when she goes to college. I learned things about my grandma in our letters that even my mom didn’t know. Maybe someday my daughter will see my mom in a new light as well. I hope she does.
GRAND Readers: You’re invited to contribute reminiscences and anecdotes about your grandparents (300 words or less). Our editors will select some submissions to publish in GRAND Magazine, on grandmagazine.com or on mywell-being.com, our sponsor’s website. Submit to GRAND by email here.
“Memories of My Grandparents” is sponsored by My Well-Being Powered by Humana.