In my book, The Grandest Love: Inspiring the Grandparent-Grandchild Connection, I asked grandchildren to write a letter their their grandparents. The topic was “what I learned from you.” (see others here.)
This is a beautiful and meaningful thing for a grandparent to know while they are still alive how they have helped and guided their grandchildren. My book project started after my Margaret passed away. Ethan, now an ordained rabbi, still wrote this letter to her. I dare you to read it and not cry.
Parents…grab paper and a pen or beautiful paper that can go through a printer. Tell your children to write to your parents. Or, grandchildren, you can do this on your own. This is a gift that can still arrive by Mother’s Day, and will last forever.
Dear Grandma Margaret,
I know that this might seem a little weird, writing you a letter even though you left us many years ago, but your husband asked me to write you a letter and I pretty much won’t say no to Grandpa. I am going to resist the urge to ask about how you are doing and what you are up to but I will tell you that I am well. I am in rabbinical school now and I am working on ways of bringing an old religion to people through new technologies (and also some old technologies too).
My dad told me once that you predicted when I was born that this is what I would do with my life – nice job. Actually I think that I learned a lot about faith from you. The predictions and star-chart stuff, not to mention Tarot cards and previous lives, were perhaps all about your belief in the unseen and that there are forces at work in our universe that are beyond our mien but that we can tap into briefly and rudimentarily if we go about it in the right way.
In fact, Grandma, as I write this I realize that I completely share in your belief in the power and magic of the world around us and that I would not be who I am today without it, or without you. You taught me that it is okay to have faith, and that belief and love of these things is not silly and doesn’t make you silly. On that same note you also taught me to enjoy little things other people miss, and that there is cool stuff to be found in even mundane things like puzzles and wearing purple. You taught me that nothing should be overlooked and that if you note and remember everything you see, you will be really, really good at crossword puzzles.
You taught me that messy rooms can be a lot of fun and I inherited, or learned, that same trait from you. It is a trait that says you want to be able to do anything and everything (because anything and everything can be cool) and don’t have time to pick up things, or need to have them in neat piles or put away. If there is a path to walk through and I know where everything in the room is, why should I clean it up more than that?
However you also showed me the dangers of such a life and such a room. The pitfalls of half-finished quilts and paintings, the lost items that infuriate (“I know it is in the room somewhere”) and the need for maybe a little bit of order. You taught me mostly through example that there is a dangerous quality to the mixture of passion, intellect and scattered enthusiasm for everything that runs in our family. I both relish and fear the fact that I exhibit many of the qualities that you did in this regard.
This is where I would like to finish my letter to you, Grandma. You taught me many little things about puzzles, marble runs, games, food, painting, poker and not to fight with my cousins.
Really, though, it was the big things that will stay with me and are the most influential in my life. Your sense of play, the passion for life, the discipline and the faith in a magical universe have all been transmitted to me through a combination of teaching and DNA. These things have been a part of making me who I am today, for better and for worse, and they will continue to guide me as I go forward.
Thank you, Grandma, for all of the things you gave me, and for being a ready teacher and playmate.
I miss you and love you,
ETHAN (written at 26)