My dad shot this photo of Grandma O. getting off the Greyhound Bus, when she was visiting us in ’77.
That’s how my grandmother, Hydie Olson, signed all of her cards to me–“Love Grandma O.” I still have a box of birthday, Christmas, and Valentine’s Day cards sent to me by Grandma O. She died in the hospital not long after my 15th birthday. I am grateful for the 15 years I had with my Grandma O. and her presence remains with me to this day. When I was younger, we played a game called, “Author, Author.” I don’t remember much about the game, but I still remember the illustrations of famous authors on the cards. Perhaps it was merely a more sophisticated version of “Go Fish!” Grandma O. had a love of words that came through in her crossword puzzles, Scrabble games, and poetry. Because of Grandma O., I wanted to be an “author” (not writer) when I grew up. I felt that being a published author had been Grandma O’s unfulfilled destiny. Somehow I was born as her namesake to fulfill this destiny.
Today, as I watched my oldest child drive away from our house, on her way back to college, after this last spring break spent with us before she graduates in May, I was reminded of my Grandma O. I remember our family of six pulling away from her curb, three across the front, three across the back courtesy of a bench seating system. I can still see Grandma O. waving goodbye from a metal screen door that had an “O” directly in the middle of it. I always felt so sad for Grandma O. as we drove away. “Who will play Scrabble with her?” I’d wonder. I understand it better now. It wasn’t so much about her loneliness, although my Grandpa Roy had died about ten years before she did, it was about the constant and abiding moments of leaving that make up a mother’s lifelong work of raising her kids. While it may start with the first day of day care or Kindergarten, it never really ends. So like the tide, this going out and coming back to you, loops and crashes one leaving to the next. Eventually, your children begin bringing things home from their time away; first school papers, later perhaps college boyfriends, spouses, even children someday. And always, no matter how long or how far, you gather your child and his or her life collections unto your shores and into your arms.
When they once again go back out, as they all must do, you wave at the door and wipe away tears–just a few–before you align yourself back with your typical daily routine. Perhaps Grandma O. would sit down over a cup of coffee and finish the daily cross word puzzle after we all had left, maybe with a date-filled cookie or “Grandma Roll,” both baked specially for our visit. Just as I sit here this morning by the fire, in a quiet house, with my cup of coffee and this blog. My love of words flowing into and out of all of the leavings that have already passed.
Much love to you, Grandma O.