All I've ever really wanted to be is a Grandma. I guess I should say I've wanted the persona, irrespective of bearing children --- the liberation, daffiness and solitude is what appealed to me about the stage of life. In fourth grade I wanted to be sixty years old. I wore fake pearls and collected stray cats.
My grandparents passed to me a love of writing, and to a lesser degree, reading. Since I grew up in Alaska and they lived in California and Minnesota, we didn't share books in the way we might have, had we been neighbors. But no matter. Our written exchanges were nearly constant through the stages of my life; their penmanship marked each milestone -- the joyous events like birthdays and holidays, as well as conflicted times like my parents' divorce, and my own drinking and drug-addled college days. Even to the casual observer it was incongruous enough --- my first roommate remarked that she'd never met anyone who drank so much whiskey or got so much mail from their grandma. I'm not sure if these traits were impressive on their own, but together they warranted commentary! My grandmothers were none of the things I listed above as a Grandma profile: both of them would be more aptly described as refined, self-possessed and quite social. They reinforced a dignity and zest for living with each note and card they sent.
Although I treasured our letter-writing as much as I was capable of while it was happening, I sometimes think about how much I held back. A desire for approval led to editing and restraint where it was unnecessary. Grandma Ruby, Grandpa Bob and Grandma Katherine were unavoidably on a pedestal --- I'm at peace with that in retrospect. However, I wish I had been more brave. Their decades of living, plus their unconditional love, allowed for much fuller exposure than I allowed. I played it safe, you know? Spoke of achievements, aspirations and observations. I wish I would have asked them more pointed questions, about the world and their place in it. But I was a kid.
They have all died within the past nine years. God rest their beauty-filled, unrepeatable and generous souls. (I'd be remiss not to mention my Grandpa John. His pen may not have overflowed with prose, yet every occasion of my young life was marked with a punctual gift check filled out by Grandma Katherine and bearing his sturdy signature. Work is love made visible, and sharing the earnings of that work is certainly a loving act.)
Anthony and I are considering a 1,000 mile move -- a permanent return to Southeast Alaska -- to my hometown of Petersburg, where we met and were married (twice, actually. A reunion that may not have happened without the counsel of Grandma Ruby).
Recently I compiled a list of our reasons in favor of living in Petersburg, and a contrasting list of all that we'd be leaving behind. The list is revealing, entertaining, and might make a neat blog post sometime.
For now, I'm satisfied to share that this possibility is setting me free in unspoken places. I trust my grandmothers would approve.
"We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time." --T.S. Eliot