What I Wish I Would Have Said (a letter to my late grandma)

Today marks the tenth anniversary of my grandmother’s passing. It feels as if it happened yesterday and a lifetime ago, all at the same time.

Speaking of lifetimes, I’ve been thinking real hard lately about how fast they pass by.

I wonder if we think a lifetime moves faster now. I feel like I blinked and was no longer the two-year-old who skipped to the screened door and was met with a warm hug given by a woman I thought was so old, but in actuality was just a decade or so older than I am now.

I breathed and was no longer the fifteen-year-old packing my car to spend the summer at grandma’s—really an excuse to see Delta boys I liked and cousins I loved to hang out with. It didn’t matter to her for what reasons I came; she made my favorite goodies and loved on me all the same.

I blinked and was no longer the twenty-one-year-old coming to town to show off my new husband and baby, one to whom I’ve now been married a decade and a half and the other a month away from the magic age when all possibilities await just beyond the horizon. He’ll have a car and will soon be driving to his favorite place: His grandmother’s house.

I wish more than anything I’d stopped in those moments where there was silence. In those moments she wasn’t hollering at my grandpa the way Italians do, or busy cooking at the stove, or watching her soaps—I wish I’d stopped and asked her the hard questions:

Are you really happy, Grandma?

Do you really believe in God?

Why didn’t you…chase your dreams?

Go there?

Do that?

Be this?

I wonder how my grandmother would have answered me.

Surely, she’d been a young girl with dreams of a bright future. She’d written for a newspaper in Kentucky during the summers she spent with her aunt. (I like to think I take after her.) She was a majorette in school. She had to have dreamed of more than a marriage at seventeen, babies—six of them in all, two girls in Heaven and four boys to raise on Earth—and the same tiny house on the same quaint street for over fifty years.

She endured a sixty-plus-year marriage that experienced long periods of separation due to my grandfather’s overseas jobs, and, of course, lived through all the trials that come with kids, family, matrimony. Lack of money, food, clothing, romance. Rebellious kids, illness, death of loved ones. The ordinary that still hurts like hell even if pain is common to humanity.

At her funeral, all who knew her well talked about how much she loved her family, especially her boys. How she’d been faithful as a wife and a mother and a child of God.

All I thought about were those nagging questions.

So I asked them to myself recently and realized maybe my grandma would have answered them the way I did.

Maybe she would have said that happiness is a state of mind. A choice. Maybe she was just as happy cooking at her electric stove on Pecan Street as she would have been making meals in the grandest kitchen on West Second Avenue.

Maybe she would say she believed in God as much as any human could. That suffering sure makes His goodness difficult to trust but His presence sorely needed.

Maybe she would tell me she did chase her dreams and, for the most part, they had come true—she was a wife and a mother, and a fantastic one at that.

And just maybe she would tell me that the going there and the doing that and the being this, that those are all noble conquests, but so highly overrated in our new day. That just to exist and serve the Creator and live as a good and decent person—which she did—is all we should really strive for.

Maybe she would say all that.

Maybe not.

But what I wouldn’t give to see her one more time and ask.

If by some great miracle I could see her again, I doubt I’d even bother with questions. Instead, I think I’d like to tell her just one simple thing:

Thank you.

For sticking it out with grandpa so that we all had a stable home to visit.

For believing that the most important job on Earth was to love and care for your family.

For teaching me that the hardest lessons take a lot of sacrifice without a whole lot of appreciation in return. At least, not in the moment.

And as much as I’d like to say, I’m sorry if you might have sacrificed your whole life’s happiness to teach your family all these important things, I know she wouldn’t accept my apology.

She would tell me some lessons are well worth the sacrifice.

I miss you every day, Grandma. One day you will welcome me home, but until then, I hold you in my heart.

See you soon,

Toni

1 thought on “What I Wish I Would Have Said (a letter to my late grandma)

  1. Pingback: Three Ways to Embrace Aging (Lent, Day 2)

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