Dear Grandma and Grandpa,
Of course it makes sense that summer always reminds me of you. How many summer days and weeks did we spend in your home throughout my childhood? My tummy always tingled with excitement when our station wagon would finally pull into your driveway. We would strap on the shoes we had abandoned hours before on the outset of our road trip and race to the front door where we would be caught up in enthusiastic embraces from each of you.
I've been thinking about each of you so much lately.
It's hard to believe that it's been six years since you passed on to heaven, Grandpa. I find you often in my dreams and long for a moment in eternity to be caught up in your hug again. Grandma, your passing last year is still so painfully recent that I can hardly talk about you without my throat tightening as I blink back tears. Because it's so difficult to give a voice to these thoughts, I am falling back on words written and not spoken and hoping somehow, someway you're able to know this where you are.
Grandpa admiring my new baby doll while brother Brandon shows off a General Lee car, Christmas at my Grandparents' in 1982
It wasn't until I became a parent that I realized how blessed I was to have an incredible role model in "playful parenting" in you, Grandpa. It makes me giggle to think about how often you redirected our grumps and gripes with silly faces and funny sounds. I can't remember that you ever got exasperated with us, and you were truly one of the most gentle people I have ever known.
On the very rare occasion that I hear a baseball game floating from someone's radio, I am instantly in your home where baseball games so often provided a quiet, steady soundtrack to our summer days. Whether at your station at the breakfast table or watching traffic hum past from the screened-in porch, your radio was a constant companion.
And each time I add to and work on my compost pile, I think of you - walking a bag full of kitchen scraps out to the compost heap in the backyard. As a child, I thought it was so tragic that what had once been a goldfish pond had been transformed into a big compost pit! You were composting before composting was cool, and though I could have chosen a nice and neat tumbler for my own composting project, I decided on an old-fashioned pile on the ground instead because it makes me feel connected to you.
And, oh! The life that flourished from that compost heap! A garden filled with flowers and pots and containers abounded indoors. Thanks to you, I knew from an early age what a tomato should taste like, bursting with flavor and still warm from the sun. Would you believe that one of Brandon's most-treasured possessions is your potato masher? You could make mashed potatoes like no one else, and there was no bigger fan of your work than my brother.
My mother hides behind Cookie Monster while I check out my new baby doll stroller. My smiling grandmother holds my new baby sister Emily. Christmas at Grandparents', 1979
Grandma, where do I begin on the debt I owe to you? I have so many favorite memories of our time spent in your care. Cold cans of Tab with a straw, Archway cookies, M&Ms from the carton you kept in the fridge, feather dusters and carnival glass collections, a squeaking glider on the porch where I laid my head in your lap while you told me stories of growing up on a farm in Kansas during the Depression. I hold it all so dear.
To you I attribute my love for the written word. Before we could read, you faithfully read to us from your glorious collection of childrens' books. Once we began reading on our own, you faithfully loaded us up and sent us forth in the stacks of books at the local library branch. I would come home with an armful of promise for hours and hours of time lost in books. Though you had never taken a single pedagogy class, I think you instinctively knew what all the research shows - good readers make good writers. I am so thankful for your library card.
From you I learned the importance of conservation, of not using too much water and turning off the lights. I learned the joy of creating - whether it was in the kitchen or elementary attempts at embroidery (remember when you taught us "chicken scratch"?) or delighting in the outfits you made for us . . . Always, there was creating going on in your home.
Finally I'm connecting the dots on where this activist aspect of my temperament comes from. For years, your firm and passionate guidance lead the staff of the NICU and newborn nurseries at KU Medical Center. As the head RN in charge of those nurseries, your influence was great. Mom had always told me of how you lead the charge towards instituting rooming-in policies for babies and their new mamas. When I asked Aunt Barbara about this, she told me:
Until we reunite in eternity, I will be honoring you with my life and my family and my home in every way I can.