I haven’t had much time to decompress since passing my oral exam on November 10. We had company for a week, and I’ve been splitting my work time between a day job and a short-but-intense book-indexing gig for my advisor. I wasn’t quite ready to dive back into the dissertation-related reading, but for a few minutes most days, I’ve been savoring tidbits from my collection of letters from my grandmother. She and I had a very lively correspondence over the years, until her vision started to deteriorate and her hands grew more arthritic. She died in October 2008, just a few weeks shy of her 90th birthday, November 19. Since she was always one of my biggest – if not THE biggest of – cheerleaders, I’ve been wishing that I could write to her about clearing this hurdle, and tell her about the dissertation plans.
Her letters were priceless. Some of them were written from the public library, where she’d go to pour over nature magazines or check out a book I’d recommended. Others were written from a diner, where she liked to take herself out for a meal and a change of scenery. Or she’d haul out her powder blue portable electric typewriter and type the letter — sometimes on full sheets of paper, sometimes on half, sometimes front and back, always single-spaced…
Now that she’s gone, I’m extra-grateful to have this collection. I can hear her voice and her laugh on every page. And she was a terrific writer. Bear with me, while I share a few outtakes with you…
Here, her wry humor and willingness to get a laugh at her own expense —
This one was written from the Springfield (Ohio) Public Library, where she went to chase down a book by Sarah Hrdy, and an issue (1988?) of Smithsonian magazine I’d recommended, for a moving article by Janis Carter about reintroducing chimpanzees to a protected area in Africa.
This is one of my favorites; it captures Gram to a “t.” I’ve redacted the name of the place where she was volunteering, and the name of the coworker she was complaining about.
This one refers to the unfortunate tendency of local squirrels to find their way into the transformer boxes on utility poles in my hometown, inevitably meeting their Maker and causing brown-outs for many blocks around.
Her love of butterflies was legend, and stayed with her all her life. She amassed such an impressive collection of butterfly pins that we handed them out to family members to wear at her funeral last year! This was a sweet recollection of where that obsession got started.
And this one conveys the kind of enthusiasm and spirit with which Gram approached life, ALL of her life. “Carol” is my mother.
Miss ya, Gram. *Mwah!*
Still, so much to be thankful for this year. At crucial and difficult times, amazing friends and family came up with ideas and solutions and moral support that allowed us to plow through the rough spots and stay on track. We are really and truly blessed. Words fail me. Peace and blessings to you all!