My grandparents have been gone for a long time. My last grandmother died before Amelia was born. My other three grandparents died several years before I married. So, it was with joy that I spent time with them this past week. Three of my four grandparents wrote letters to me that I found amongst long-saved and forgotten school papers. I was surprised at the tender feelings they brought. I was only blessed to know one of my four grandparents well. Two lived in Canada–I saw each of them (they were divorced) just a few times and years apart. The other, whom I have no letters from, was felled by Alzheimer’s.
I am so blessed to have these letters and so thankful for them. I suspect I benefited from my birth-order with all three letter-writing grandparents. I was my Canadian grandparents’ first grandchild and my Orem grandma’s first granddaughter. There are many rewards to being a younger child, but I’m guessing that the strength of relationship with grandparents probably isn’t one of them.
I had just one letter from my Canadian grandfather. It was sent from La Paz, Bolivia, where he had traveled for business. It didn’t say anything important, but it reminded me that he had known me and cared about me, and thought about me once when he was far from home. In the same box where I found his letters, I also found the three trinkets I have that connect him to me: a little coin purse made from Kangaroo fur (!) and imported/purchased (?) from Australia, a little coin purse that looks Bolivian-ish, and a dried-up seahorse. I remember the day he gave me the seahorse. I had been pouting because we were visiting him in Canada and my family and I were going to go on some outing; he didn’t intend to accompany us, and I wasn’t to be allowed to stay with him. Pouting is perhaps not the appropriate word; I was genuinely sad. I believed that his intention to stay home showed that he did not care about his American grandchildren. It is hard to remember, but I believe that after witnessing my emotion he ended up coming with us on the outing, and giving me the seahorse as a token of affection. I love that seahorse.
I also had letters from my Canadian grandmother. She wrote them very early, when I was less than a year old. She hadn’t met me, but spoke of her excitement over my photographs. She told me about how her own mother had just been told that her cancer was terminal and of her wish that I could meet her before she passed on (I don’t think I did). I was amazed at how her letters radiated love for a little person that she had never seen or spoken to. Perhaps I just read this into it because I wanted it to be there, but I was amazed at her ability to direct her thoughts and attention to me. These letters didn’t feel like they were aimed at my mother, filtered through the cute gimmick of being sent to her baby daughter, they felt like they were actually written to me. At one point she mentioned her hope that my mother would save and share them with me when I was older. It’s been almost forty years, but I did read them, and I’m so thankful she took the time to write.
Most of the grandparent letters, notes and cards were from my Orem grandma. She lived the latest into my life and was a natural-born encourager. I found several notes of celebration over spelling-bees and other childhood accomplishments, but even more words of praise and encouragement. In the same box as the notes, I found a little white box that had nothing in it. A Christmas label was taped to the top. It was addressed to me in her trademark red ballpoint-inked cursive with love from her. I’ve apparently saved that empty box for two or three decades, but once again I found that I couldn’t bear to throw it out. After all, the box was not actually empty, but full: it seemed to overflow with her love and caring for me. I am lucky because I have plenty of memories of my Orem grandma outside her notes and cards. The notes are cards are neat though because they exactly reflect the woman I remember.
I am greatly blessed to have had grandparents who loved me and who told me so. I am so thankful that they wrote me letters. It reminds me of the importance of giving lasting physical reminders to my children–letters, trinkets, whatever–but something that they can keep–so that they can always remember how much I love them. I want to remind my children’s grandparents the same thing. It is hard to say which letter or tiny trinket might turn up in a child’s box of forgotten treasures 30 years from now, but don’t you hope one of yours does?