Is there a person you should have thanked, but never had the chance? Is there someone who helped you along the way without even realizing it? Here’s your chance to express your belated gratitude:
Dear Grandpa George,
I know you are gone now, but I am lucky to get the chance to get this letter to you, through layers and layers of whatever is out there.
You came along when Grandma had FIVE young adult children, one of whom was my mother. I mean seriously, how many men would take that on? It wasn’t long till my Mom was pregnant at 18, and I came along. My dad was a “horse’s ass” as they used to say back then and we were all poor and you were the only male figure in my life. But you know, I never once heard you put my dad down. That was nice. I lived with you off and on till I was 17.
When I was little you did all kinds of things for me. You taught me about manners. I was not allowed to walk in front of the TV when adults were watching. I knew you were strict, but I never remember you yelling at me or spanking me. You burned a tick off the back off my head with a lighter!
Do you remember when I was little and you took me out to eat? You bought me a piece of strawberry pie and I loved it. I begged and begged for more. So you took me to the restaurant again and told the waitress to bring as much as I wanted. I came home and was sick. My Mom and Grandma really lit into you over that one.
We never had a lot of money, but there was always a Christmas tree and presents. I had no idea I was poor. We always had a roof, food, and clothes, and back then, that was pretty good.
When my Mom and I moved to Indiana it was very hard. I was away from you and Grandma and I was hungry and lonely a lot. My mom would not let me come and live with you. But I got to come every summer and I had such a good time!
As I got older and finances got better, you took up golf as a hobby. I know you hoped I’d take it up too, but I just had no talent. But you taught me how to caddy, and all about golf etiquette. This served me well when I had to play for business later. Do you remember all the trains in Ohio? Do you know how badly you’d scare me when you drove around the barricade arms and across the track just so you’d make a tee time?
We had a lot of fun. We’d go to estate sales, races, and county fairs. I used to love the demolition derbys. And my god, we visited relatives. Grandma had eight brothers and sisters and we were always visiting or they were coming to see us. And there was food. There wouldn’t have been all this if you hadn’t worked so hard and provided for Grandma.
Do you remember the county fair with the deep fried pickles? We got in the car and the grease in the air from them coated the windshield. We could barely see to get home!
You loved to drive and travel and took me everywhere. I wish I had paid a little more attention to the historical sites, for sure.
When I was a teenager, I would come to stay with you every summer. You had a really good job making ammunition at a factory and you helped me get a summer job there. It was awfully good money, but it taught me that I did not want to work on a factory line the rest of my life. You were a supervisor there and you weren’t too chummy with the employees. They knew you meant business but they all respected you a great deal. You were an incredibly hard worker. I don’t know how you did it all of those years.
Do you remember the time we went shopping at a mall in the next town over? I had just started carrying a purse. And I left it in a dressing room. I can’t imagine I had anything very important in that purse but you drove back 30 minutes or so without a complaint so I could get it back.
When we moved far away, you came to see us at Christmas. And you believed me when I told you my stepfather was hitting me. And you hated him too. And you offered to let me live with you, but I said no, I liked high school where I was.
One of things I really regret was when you came to visit me at college. Now neither of us knew anything about bipolar disorder, but I had had my ups and downs. When you got to college, there was a football game. I was on the pom line, so I didn’t get to sit with you. After, you wanted to go eat. But I was manic and chasing after some guy and he had asked me to go out. I can’t remember what wound up happening but I know I hurt your feelings.
When I was manic and teaching school and started flirting with a married man, you let me know in your own way that that was wrong.
When my daughter Rachel was born, you patiently got down on the floor and played with her and all of her baby toys. Those are some of the last pictures we have of you.
You had courage near the end and even though you knew I believed, you told me you thought there was nothing after death. I respected your honesty.
I wonder and wonder how you learned to love me, someone who was not even your biological granddaughter. From what I know, your mom left when you and your brother were small and I never heard of your father. I know that you and your younger brother “rode the rails” and stayed in camps along the way until you grew up enough to join the service.
You were a great man, Grandpa. I love you.