I’m posting this letter to my blog because I know that if I sent it, you would not be able to read it. Even if you did read it, you would not remember it or for that matter, perhaps even remember me. I’m writing this because when I saw you a few weeks ago I realized that even though I could have told you all of this in person, it wouldn’t make a difference. I realized that you wouldn’t understand my love for you, only the confusion and frustration of dementia. So I’m writing it here so that other people can know how amazing you are, even in your absence.
Grandma, you are one of the bravest people I’ve ever known. The story of how you came over from Poland as a three-year-old with Babcia with the image of the Statue of Liberty as your first memory is woven into my life tapestry. Your story of seeing your father for the first time at Ellis Island reminds me of the beauty of family and the need to love each other in even the most challenging of times.
Grandma, you are one of the most adventurous people I’ve ever known. Your early travel must have instilled a wanderlust in you, because you were the epitome of a well-traveled person for me for decades. From Asia to Australia, hearing the stories of the places you visited instilled that desire in me. I doubt I would have lived abroad or ventured to the Amazon without your example. And knowing that you did it all after you retired illustration that travel is not just a young person’s game, that even parents and grandparents can adventure if they truly want to.
Grandma, you are one of the most generous people I’ve ever known. Knowing that you left your formal education to go to work because your family needed financial support is staggering, especially considering your love for learning. Taking my aunt and newborn cousin in when my ex-uncle decided he no longer wanted them in his life was another example of your giving spirit. Contributing so much to my college education and even the down payment on my house were acts of generosity I can never fully express my gratitude for. In every case, you did them without bragging or calling attention to them. Something needed to be done? You did it. My commitment to my family and larger community is no doubt inspired by the example you lived.
Grandma, you are one of the smartest people I’ve ever known, putting you in the company of Oxford laureates. Your lack of formal education just meant that you valued learning even more. You were always interested in what I was studying in school, asking me questions about it. Always knowing I’d have something to read when I visited your house, I spent hours flipping through back issues of National Geographic and Reader’s Digest. Despite your lack of education, you had a long and fruitful career that enabled you to save money and invest it intelligently.
Grandma, I know the person you can present to the world now isn’t the person you truly are. I mourn that you can no longer access so much of your true self. But I remember and keep all that you taught me in my heart. I know that you were and are beautiful and brilliant. So know that you live on in the stories and values I teach my son and try to live out myself every day.