Wednesday, June 11, 2014


Dear Jules,
One of the most special things in the world is the relationship between a grandchild and a grandparent.  I luckily had very special, very different relationships with my mother's mom, with whom I went to church, and my mother's dad, with whom I played violin, listened to stories, etc.  See Dedi.  You are lucky in that you have special relationships with Papa, Nagyi, and the woman I'm writing about today, Grammy.

When I first met your Grammy, I thought of her as more of a friend than a mom.  She has such an adventuresome spirit, is always up for an outing, and makes for an excellent shopping partner!  One of the things I reallly see in both of you is your zest for life...sometimes despite the odds.  When you go to the ocean, you get right in the water with no fear, and this is what your Grammy does.  Even if it's difficult, she wades right in and experiences life fully.  She's persistent and won't take "no" for an answer, which is something I envy but, thankfully, something you share with her.  In fact, Diane, your speech therapist, said that your spirit and your "willfulness" would take you far in life, and I can already see that.

Just a few years ago, I was on the phone with Grammy who, in her early fifties, wanted to go back to school to study photography at the prestigious Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD).  She had talked to someone who told her she should stay at home with her husband, your Papa, and she was having doubts.  I told her that she needed to do this...I like to think that this conversation, along with the support of your Papa and her own determination, spurred her on in taking that leap--to continue our metaphor--into that water.

And the water was chilly and deep; she spent many many nights awake working on homework, had to have her work critiqued by eighteen-year-olds (who, let me tell you, are not kind critics!), and, most difficult, she lived almost four hours away from Papa.  It was not an easy time, but she did it.  She graduated Summa Cum Laude and is now a bona fide photographer and, recently, a painter.

I like to tell this story to my students because it would have been easy for her to back down.  At this point, she did not need the money, she had a house, and she could have just done photography as a hobbyist, but this was her dream, and she followed it.  She did not take "no" for an answer.

Not only is Grammy persistent, but she's one of those people who manages to pull this off and still have lots of friends because she has such a big heart.  She has been nothing but accepting of both me and your aunt Maggie, and this woman would go to the ends of the world for her boys.  She loves you so very much, and you have been developing a very special relationship.  Last week, she came and spent about three days with you; you went to the beach, to a few therapies, but mostly just enjoyed each other's company.  Here are some "selfies" that you and Grammy took:

Just seeing how happy you both are makes my heart smile, and I would like you to have these pictures and treasure them as you both grow older (and possibly less silly...though I doubt it).

On a personal note, it meant a lot to me that Grammy took time not only for you, but also to do something special with me.  Because I'm busy with you and with work, I don't often have time to do "girl things," and it's really easy to forget to do things for myself.  Grammy came with me to a studio called Wine and Design, where we had a few glasses of wine and then proceeded to copy one of their paintings...from scratch!  I have really no sense of spacial orientation and was terrified at the thought, but Grammy helped me every step of the way.  And we both painted sea paintings to go in your room:

I know they won't be in your room forever, but maybe you have these in storage and can remember this story.  I really did not like my painting until Granny told me the problem was that I had too many colors.  I fixed it and tried to "unify" it, and I think it turned out much better.  She didn't do it for me--it's definitely my own painting--but her advice helped.

This is, I think, the key to good parenting: to help your children but not do things for them. I can already tell that it's going to be so hard; when you're having trouble, I just want to make life easier, to do it for you.  But this painting makes me proud because I did it myself, and because I accepted advice (also not the easiest thing for me).  And so your Granny isn't only adventuresome and kind, but she is an excellent parent and grandmother.  You have special, very different relationships with all of your grandparents, and I think the magic is that you learn different things from each one.  

Nonetheless, every time you jump fearlessly in the water or insist on doing things by yourself, I think of this woman, her invaluable influence, and her precious love for you.

Friday, June 6, 2014

Dear Jules,
Today, June 6th, marks the 70th anniversary of D-Day.  Now I fully expect you to talk to your father about this, because my historical knowledge of WWII is very very hazy, but I do know that Normandy was important to your Great-Grandfather (remember?  The one in the picture in your room? Every night, we say:  "Momma loves you; Dadda loves you; Grammy loves you; Nagyi loves you; Papa loves you; Great-Grandpa loves you; your aunts and uncles love you; Puck loves you; and God loves you."  Right now, your favorites are "Papa," "Puck," and "God," which I guess I could psychoanalyze...).  He served in the 463rd battalion, 79th infantry division, and was part of the Normandy invasion, which is amazing.  He never drank, but he would always drink a bit of Calvados  to celebrate the occasion.

I've been thinkng about Great-Grandpa a lot, as I never had a great-grandparent, and my own grandfather died four (!) years ago now, almost to this day.  And we visited him recently in Rome, Georgia.  He lived for a long time with his wife, Jean, who he absolutely adored, in El Paso, Texas.  Grandpa used to tell lots of Jean stories, and all of them were similarly almost worshipful.  In these stories, Jean spoke her mind, told this Brigadier General what to do, and he did not mind one bit.  He just adored her so much, and I knew he was in love with you when he said you resemble her (which I'm not sure you do, but still...).  I need to find a picture of her to put on this blog for you, but I digress.

Your dad was very close to Great-Grandpa growing up; he would stay with him, help him feed his pet turtles, hang out on his hammock (you also enjoy this!), and read book series, most notably the Oz books.  I actually met him through his 463rd Battalion reunions, which I started attending even before Daddy and I were married.  I still have his honorary pin which, to me, meant so very much.  Both Aunt Maggie and I received pins, and they were a clear "welcome to the family."  Both of us knew how much he loved and cherished not only Dad and Uncle Lee, but also their girlfriends--soon-to-be-wives (For Grandpa knew a thing or two about love, you see).  At these reunions, he always gave the closing speech, which he practiced and delivered from memory in a manner that I envy.  The speeches were not (thankfully) mostly about war, but more about strategy, the friendships these people developed, and the love of his life, Jean.

In 2006, your Dad and I had the opportunity to stay with Great-Grandpa for a week in El Paso.  We had such a lovely time.  Every day, at 0900 (military time), we would leave the house for an outing somewhere: we went to Carlsbad Caverns, New Mexico.  I unfortunately can't find my pictures from then, but these were wonderful times.  We would get back for lunch, and everyone would take a nap while I went for a run (some things never change).  Then we'd all go get dinner somewhere.  I really grew to love your Great-Grandpa during that week and am so grateful I got to see him at his prime.

You've also met your GG a few times.  We've thankfully had the chance to spend two Thanksgivings with him.  During the first one, in 2012, you were almost two--here is a picture of him and some other people you might recognize:
GG, Papa, You, Papa-Dada, and Aunt Maggie


In 2013, we went to Aunt Maggie and Uncle Lee's house in Durham, North Carolina; Grammy drove to Rome, GA to pick up GG and take him first to Charlotte, and then over there.  Again, you and he got along famously.

This past weekend, we went to visit him in Winthrop Manor, where he's currently staying.  His health has declined a good deal; he's in a wheelchair, was on oxygen, can't read books or really hear much any more, and keeps falling.  I really wanted you to see him (and him to see you) while he still could, so we drove to your Aunt Emily and Uncle Mark's house in Atlanta, where you got to play with your cousin Lucy, and then to Rome.  I was a bit nervous about how this all would go, but you just went right up to every single resident, waved, and gave hugs.  You were especially sweet with GG and requested that you sit in his lap:
Every time I look at it, this picture makes me tear up.  You felt so at home in his arms...and just look at how much he loves you!  Even when he's not around any more, I hope you can look at this picture and feel pride and love for this amazing man.  When he came to visit you for your first birthday, I asked all of our guests to contribute a song to a playlist, and his choice was Perry Como's "Til the End of Time."  It's a beautiful song- here's a link to it:   Here's a part that I find most touching:

Till the wells run dry
And each mountain disappears
I'll be there for you, to care for you
Through laughter and through tears

Even if he's no longer physically here, your Great-Grandpa, like your Nagyapa and so many others who will love you, will be there, caring for you, always.