When I cleaned out a closet in our basement, I came across an old box that belonged to my grandmother, Vevia, my father’s mother. We always called her “Mom.”
Mom was born in 1899 in Oklahoma. Her three brothers all graduated from college and law school. Mom and her two sisters also graduated from college, which was pretty extraordinary for women in those days. Mom was a math teacher and, by all accounts, an excellent one.
Inside the old box, there were numerous letters and cards written to my grandmother from various friends and relatives.
All of the cards were quite formal sounding, thanking her for this or that, asking about my dad (her only child) or inquiring about my grandfather, who died before I was born.
Also in the box were calling cards — smallish cards with the full names of ladies who “came to call” on my grandmother. Proper ladies apparently handed these cards out whenever they “called” on their friends or ran their errands. How adorable!
Mom also loved bridge and frequently played host to afternoon bridge parties for friends. Among the boxes we unpacked, my mother and I admired the multitudes of hand-sewn tablecloths, the exact size for a card table, which is what they played the game on.
I can just imagine my petite grandmother sitting at a beautifully set table, peering at the cards and calculating her next strategic move. Her mathematical brain was surely helpful with bridge. Sadly, I didn’t inherit these math skills from her or from my equally math-brained father.
Mom was a capable and intelligent woman. She was a career woman, way ahead of her time, and a proper lady to boot. She kept journals, wrote letters and cards, and collected postcards from every place she ever traveled.
Still, I feel as if I do not know who she really was. You see, in her journals and other writings, everything was properly done, but few if any personal things were revealed.
I long to know what some of my grandmother’s inner thoughts and feelings were.
If she were alive today, I would ask her what it was like to be a woman back then. What were the Roaring 20s like for a college-educated young woman?
What did she think about, dream about? What was her childhood like? What did she and my grandfather disagree about? Did they argue about how to raise my father?
Why did they not have any more children? Did they want more?
I wonder if she didn’t write about such things because it wasn’t considered proper? Even so, I wish I could have uncovered some secret writings.
I say this because I think we all want to know about those who pass on before us. I realize not everybody thinks their writing skills are up to par. In fact, I have friends who tell me they simply can’t write.
But your loved ones aren’t going to concern themselves with your grammatical skills.
I love and appreciate the “things” my grandmother left behind — linens, pictures, books, etc. And I hope to pass these on to my children.
More than any possession, I wish I had my grandmother’s words, her thoughts and dreams written down on paper.
As I leafed through some of my grandmother’s papers and pictures, I remembered listening to my dad tell stories about his childhood. He always told the same stories, and I never tired of hearing them.
I loved visiting the small town of Columbia, Ky., where he grew up and where I went to visit my sweet grandmother as a child.
I have such fond childhood memories of those visits. She was always a well-mannered, proper lady. It was so hard to see Alzheimer’s claim her.
I remember my father whispering to her as she said things that didn’t make any sense. I was in high school when Vevia passed away, but she really left us many years before.
I miss her and my dad and wish I had of asked more questions and written down every word they said.
Why not take a few minutes and pen some of your own memories and thoughts? I guarantee your own words will be worth more to your loved ones than any belongings (even money) you may leave behind.
Adlen Robinson is author of “Home Matters: The Guide to Organizing Your Life and Home.” E-mail her at firstname.lastname@example.org.