Friday, September 19, 2014

a note to my grandmother.

My grandmother would have turned 96 this week. She passed away nearly three years ago, and I think about her all of the time. I've been fortunate to experience close relationships with all of my grandparents. They were (and are) treasures to me, and the older I get, the more I realize how valuable it is to watch someone be older than you. Does that make sense? 

Our society, I'm afraid, is becoming more and more segregated by age, and I think that's sad, because I learn so much from people who are older and wiser than I. In turn, I watched my grandmother live a very long life, thanks -- in part, I believe -- to the young ones she lived alongside. I think she stayed young by being around those who were younger. 

So, then, it should be no surprise I find kindred spirits all over this world, people who are older and younger than me. In fact, in this small town I now call home, some of the most precious people I have met remind me a great deal of my grandmother. My relationship with her has enabled me to experience relationships with other older and wiser women. I thought about her today, and I wanted to write her this letter. 


Dear Mama, 

I thought about you a lot this week. Thomasville is filled with so many older people; some of them are lovely; others are not. You showed me what it looks like to age gracefully, and because of that, I tend to be harder on the grumpier crowd. You were a lot of things, but grumpy wasn't one of them. You were a "whistle while you work" kind of woman, and so much of you is who I want to be.

Today, the sweetest lady came in the store. She visits all the time, and she's always acted interested in me, in my story. I liked her from the moment I met her (which, as you know, is saying something), and I wonder if it's because she reminds me a little bit of you. She wears a lot of purple, and her hair is white, but today we talked about books and the Roosevelts -- there's a documentary on PBS right now that's rather popular -- and she told me how glad she was I had taken over the store. Customers rarely tell me that; it's just not important. Even if they think it, they don't say it, and that's fine with me. But this woman took the time today to tell me I was lovely, that I was doing a good job. It meant the world to me, and I wondered if it was maybe you? I think that sometimes. 

We have another loyal customer who struggles a little bit with her memory. She calls a lot and orders books, and I hope we take good care of her. This week, a customer came to me with a customer service complaint, and I took it rather hard. Criticism is difficult for me, but this comment especially stung. I'd like to think that what sets The Bookshelf apart is our service. I try so hard to call customers by name, to remember who they are and what they read. When I discover we've made a mistake, I tend to stress and over-analyze. Like you, I want to do my work excellently. So back to this loyal customer struggling with memory loss. 

She has a hard time getting out. And I think of you, and how you never had a driver's license, something I can't really comprehend now. (I really like to drive.) So sometimes, we deliver this woman's books. I do it for her, but I also do it for you. Today, I pulled into the assisted living home, and she was waiting for me on the porch. A nurse asked if I was her granddaughter, and I smiled and said, "Nope! I'm her bookseller!" And she got the biggest grin on her face. 

I don't always do a good job. Customers are hard for me. I'm not the extrovert you are. (Thank goodness I married one, or I'm not sure I'd ever leave the house!) But delivering those books every so often? I am proud to do that. I am grateful to be able to do that. I do that because I am your granddaughter. (And I am His daughter.) 

As I sat with this woman and looked at the pictures on her wall and petted her dog and listened to her stories, I thought about you. I told her about you, actually. How I was named for you and hopefully inherited some of your genes. She liked hearing about you, and as I was talking, I realized: I could speak with her -- without discomfort or awkwardness, despite my introverted nature -- because of you. And Papa. And Papa B. Being with all of you equipped me to find friends in the unlikeliest of places: in the woman who wears purple and needs a new book for her granddaughter. In the woman with her master's degree, struggling with the loss of her treasured memory. In my 90-year-old British friend who taught me how to take my tea.

I am so incredibly glad I grew up visiting with you. I am glad you taught me how to sew, and although I wish those lessons had stuck (because I am sorry to say they did not), I am even more glad you taught me how to love all kinds of people, how to talk with all kinds of people.

It is a joy of my life that my life is not limited to my peers. I believe we live richer existences when we befriend people who are different from us. And like so many things, it is not always easy, but it is often good. 

Thank you for teaching me that. 

Love and miss you every day, 



Leslie Lee said...

Really loved this piece, Annie. Your Mama sounds like a beautiful person. I miss talking to my grandmothers, too. I wish I would have done it more. I am glad that from a young age I learned how to just sit with them and enjoy being together. I'll always remember holding my grandma's hand while she rocked in her chair and thinking about all those hands had seen in 90+ years. These days I try to really soak in the time Garret and I have with his grandparents. So thankful for them; they love us so well and remind me of my sweet grandparents in heaven.

Ray Sherlock said...

You are special and mama was special as well. Kindred spirits to share the journey with a wide variety of people. UR

Taylor Merck said...

What a beautiful post, Annie. Makes me miss my Ma, who died 12 years ago this Saturday. I wish she could know my 25 year old self versus 13 year old me. I wish I could've known her better when I was old enough to understand the preciousness of time spent with her. Thank you for your post today.

Hailey Marie said...

This post had me in tears by the second paragraph. Yes, it reminds me of my own grandma who I miss daily (she turned 91 on the 1st of the month. She helped raise me but now has advanced dementia, is unable to speak, and lives in a nursing home in Arkansas). Yes, it reminds me of my job, managing a small business and its customers (the delightful and difficult!). And it reminds me that the best work is often hardest work in ways we don't anticipate... but it mostly reminds me how we all simply, desperately, need to hear "good job" every once in a while. Thank you, as always, for writing. ~ hailey