Just This

Dear Grandpa,

I’ve been writing these letters lately. Well, not writing. Sky-writing, perhaps. Sending words up into the air, thinking out sentiments and wishes for dear friends and loved ones who happen to be on my mind. They are a deliberate and purposeful exercise, a way to send a message directly from me to you, of love and best wishes, of gratitude and peace. Last night, Grandma was on my mind, as she is so often. I smiled thinking of how present she remains in my life.

The sky was a brilliant blue today, the leaves on the tree outside my window a vibrant green in these waning days of summer. I do love my little space in the city, the big windows, the tiny writing desk where I sit to compose this. It just doesn’t seem possible that you aren’t out there somewhere too, having enjoyed this clear, breezy day yourself.

I’ve taken immense comfort in that idea these last several years – an odd, intangible, unspoken sort of comfort knowing that no matter where I roam – Indiana, Utah, India, New York – you were somewhere familiar and you knew where I was, too. More than that, you were maybe…proud…of me?

I wish I’d called more. I wish all the times I thought about it, I’d done it. But then, I somehow just knew you knew – knew that I love you, that I adore as only a little girl can adore her grandpa.

I think that’s why this doesn’t quite feel real. You’ve been so present for me that this just feels…OK, it sucks. Of course it sucks. And yet. I’d be lying if I said I don’t see you happily reunited with Sugar after these years apart. And who could be upset about that? You’ve missed her so.

You are the star of some of my earliest, fondest memories. Playing secretary at Drico’s offices. Dinner on tray tables the weekends we’d stay over. Sneaking in to see the pizza ovens at Qs on Sunday nights. I think the first time I understood the disappointment of growing up was when I realized I’d outgrown those trips on your shoulders into that hot, exotic kitchen. Funny the things we remember.

You taught me how to save money so I was never dependent on anyone else for my well being. You defended us fiercely when anyone dared jeopardize our happiness. You pulled no punches. You taught me a work ethic. How to be dependable. How to be a partner, a provider, what a good man is. That you and Grandma embraced Jim and I the way you did forever changed our lives for the better.

I have dreamed, like most little girls do, of my wedding day. And I’d always pictured you being the one to walk me down the aisle – did I ever tell you that? I’m not sorry it never happened. I think you would’ve declined in protest if I’d rushed into something with a man not worthy of me. You taught me to have standards.

Grandpa, you are so loved. There is no simpler way to say it. You were stubborn and stodgy and perhaps old fashioned to a fault about certain things. But you were…are loved, Grandpa.

Know that. Know that wherever you get this message, however this reaches you, you will never be far from my heart. I feel Grandma in my life every day, and I know that though this blow is a difficult loss now, what’s really happened is that her presence has only been amplified, you now by her side.

I do not know what the future holds, what the next 30 years of my life will bring. I know what I dream of, and what I will work for, but I cannot know what’s in store from day to day. Today taught me that.

Whatever these years ahead may bring and whomever the world sends into my life, I look forward to telling them about two of the most incredible people I’ve ever known, two people who so shaped the woman they see in front of them.

I hesitate to end this letter, Grandpa. That’s the problem with skywriting, I suppose – eventually it just fades away.

Don Russell (1929 – 2014)

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