Nawal wrote a wonderful post earlier this month: Dear Baba. It includes letters to some people who have died. On this 31st day of #SOL21, I chose to write this post. Thank you for the long list of ideas I still have–gifts from the writing mentors in this Slice of Life Story Challenge community.
Letters to My People
Dear Aunt Thelma,
Thank you for teaching me how to crochet and sew. Thank you for teaching me to laugh at life and myself–that was my favorite lesson from you. You were so patient with all of us. Remember when I stayed with you for a week during the summer after my freshman year of high school. You made me some new clothes to start school. The See’s Candy you always had in your house wasn’t good for you or us, but it sure was fun coming to your house and eating it! I still crochet a little, but I miss you and Lynne, who I could ask any question and get firsthand help. Now, my oldest, Maria, is the ultimate knitter, quilter, sewist (I think she may call herself that instead of a seamstress–it is the 21st century, you know). You would be proud of her. I can go to her for help now.
Dear Grandpa H.,
Thank you for taking me fishing. Remember when I caught that two-pound carp in Lake Mead? You made me feel like a fishing star. You stopped the boat and let us swim whenever we asked. I think of your gentle ways as I grow older.
Dear Grandma H.,
You were the sweet Mama, Grandma, Nana for so many. Thank you for always making your home so accessible to all of us and our friends and whoever needed a place to visit. Your quiet confidence in God inspired me to give of my money, time, and talents to others as an offering to God. Though I would say, you inspired me to become a more discerning critic of organizations who claim to be doing God’s work. Your support for Jim and Tammy Faye, with their questionable values, was an example for me. (After you died, he spent time in prison for fraud of his gullible supporters.) I am glad you didn’t get to see our 46-1 president. I’m afraid you might have been a supporter because he quickly snatched up the dispensationalists to add to his nebulous base. I am glad your legacy of gentleness, love, quiet confidence, and joy live on more than your political and religious beliefs. For her middle name, we gave Katie your name. She never got to meet you, but she carries memories of our time in the desert with her. The next generation grew up going to your house with a new grandma, my mom. Katie and Thomas became engaged in Joshua Tree and we had their wedding there, in the place you called home. They are even talking about naming a daughter with a variation on your name.
Dear Grandma R.,
I know now that you had a lot of heartbreak and it made you broken, too. I can’t begin to imagine giving birth to seven children and only having three grow up to become adults, and you even outlived one of the adults, my dad. Polio and other diseases ran rampant through your family. Even those who did make it to adulthood came with mismatched limbs and other issues that showed they survived polio. If you were living today, I don’t know if you would believe that some people consider themselves anti-vaxers. I wonder if they would think the same if they walked in your shoes, and can see what disease takes away. Two things I remember about you–your index finger that was half cut off in a factory accident and the Reed’s butterscotch candies you always had on the coffee table. Some things I still try to forget.
You were my first nephew. You were born in August, but should have waited until September. You were born to my oldest sister, who contracted German measles from the little boy she babysat. We didn’t know much about Rubella then, but it is another good thing to be vaccinated against. I’m sure you would agree. You were perfect/not perfect. Partially deaf, partially blind, bad heart and more organ damage than the doctors thought you would ever survive. You never did have that open heart surgery they talked about giving you when you got strong enough. Did you never get strong enough? But you were a fighter and spunky! Remember how we celebrated our August birthdays together with the family. Homemade German Chocolate Cake–We would sit next to each other, and I would eat the cake and you would eat the frosting, which I didn’t like back then, but I do now. I think of you every time I have a chance to eat it. You died the month before we celebrated your 21st birthday together.
You left when I was seven. Lots of children were still filling the bursting-at-the-seams home. Your smoking, alcoholism and family history of heart disease were a fatal combination for the young 43-year-old. In spite of your sickness, though, I want to say thank you for working hard to take care of us. You were always worried we would look poor, so you tried to make us eat a lot. (I didn’t like that and often went to bed early because I wouldn’t clean my plate.) I was too young to know about all the issues you and our family faced, but it seems to me like you drove that Department of Water and Power truck to work every day–foreman of a work crew. When you came home the neighborhood kids got to drain the ice water cooler you had in that little door on the truck, filling up the paper cone cups like we were royalty. In those moments, I was proud you were my dad.
On a lighter note. A zappai about today’s breakfast.
I removed the hearts
Like birds nibbling from each peach