The adorable couple in the photo above are my grandparents, on their second date in Sugar City, Colorado. Granddad agreed to their first date as a favor to a friend, whose girl wouldn't go out with him without a chaperone, who would also need a date. This double half-blind date lead to a 70 year-long relationship that still blows my mind... 

This post is a letter to that couple, 70 years ago till now, from a granddaughter who misses them very much.

Dear Grandma and Grandpa, 
PictureGranddad and Grandma (center) with family at "The Ranch"
I grew up on stories of your childhood, courtship, and adventures. I remember Granddad being rescued from the well (just like Timmy). I remember his paper route, earning a nickel and buying soup bones for his mom. How living through the depression taught him to eat an apple and orange to almost nothing. I remember his job at the pickle factory, where he'd rush home to take his sisters and friends out dancing. I remember the car he had, that he could start by kicking the tire. 

I remember grandma's stories about the ranch in Golden Gate State Park. How she would ride the donkey over the hill into town. How her grandpa would drive them down the railroad tracks to get home faster, betting on the train not coming through that day. I remember how she road to Colorado from Pennsylvania in rumble seat of her dad's car. 

When you met each other, did you know that your life would be this full? You obviously knew you were meant to be together. You were only dating for 7 weeks before Granddaddy proposed, and engaged for another 7 weeks before Grandma walked down the isle in a dress she made by hand.

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Your beautiful black and white photos make it seem like you lived a 1940's Fred and Ginger romance movie. 

I know there was a lot more to your life than that though. Grandaddy, you told me about how your name was misread during WWII, and that's how you were never deployed overseas. I remember you telling me about how you lost your brother in a plane crash, how he was a brave and handsome test pilot. How his wife never remarried.

Grandma, you told me about all the boys chasing you, and how Granddaddy saved you from an unhappy relationship. You were a teacher when he met you. You told me about the little boy in your class who so wanted to please you - so much that when he couldn't get his fingernails clean he painted his nails so you wouldn't see the dirt.

Grandaddy, when you went back to school again and again, how did you decide on that with Grandma? How did she manage alone for so long? Or was that just the 1950's housewife thing kicking in? Did you know you'd be changing business philosophy through your teaching career? That businesses like Google would take what you thought of and run with it?

Grandmommy, what made you want to start up (several) businesses? You worked in department stores, decorated houses and did social work - and went back to school too to get your bachelor's degree. I know that when Mom went exploring the neighborhood as a toddler and made friends with the fraternity down the block, you knew you had to start a day care to keep her occupied. Did you know way back then that you would do so many different things?

I remember the Underwood typewriter, and how you typed Grandaddy's PhD thesis on it, one page at a time. To me, Granddad, you were the smartest man in the world. Mom told me about the French language requirement you had for one degree, and how you read the text and challenged the course, and passed. You are one big reason why I went to graduate school, and why getting my PhD is still on the table. I love learning, and I am sure I got it from you and Grandma. You were also the sweetest and most handsome man ever (save Dad), and on more than one occasion, at age ~4, I married you. 

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What I'd really like to know, is what were the hard parts? When you look back at your life, what stands out as being truly difficult (and not just drama) and how did you manage? How did you know what was worth sticking around for, and when to call it? Is there anything you would have changed?

Did you know you'd live to see three kids, eleven grand kids, and six great grand children? I know family meant the world to you, so how did you stay connected through things like divorce and illness? How can I have the same kind of family when I grow up?

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Grandma, I've known for a long time that my spirit comes from you. Mom has it too. You told me stories about "dates" where you shot jackrabbits from a moving vehicle, where you beat Granddaddy's Air Corps buddies at pool cause you college professor taught you how to play. How you changed the lives of local families and kids through your kindness and persistence. How could you grow up somewhere as beautiful as Colorado and not have such a wild heart? 

You were spicy, fiery and free until absolutely the very end. Nothing was beyond your reach, and even as Mom told you it wasn't a good idea to drive any more, you still saw the world as your oyster. I am so SO very glad I got to know you, that you and Grandaddy weren't just stories to me, but real life examples of what my life could be like too. 

I blame my wandering spirit, my craving for adventure- and because of that, I blame every time I've stood at the edge of a challenge and jumped - on you. I wouldn't trade that part of me for the world. Thank you so much for that gift. 

Because of you two, I have such a strong sense of place, identity and belonging in the bigger picture of family and history. Thank you for your stories. 

I want you to know, that you will never ever be forgotten. You are so deeply a part of me, and I plan on making a huge dent in this world. Thank you for giving me the best start possible. 

What I really want to tell you right now, is that I am happy. I am doing well, and that I miss you so much,

Love, 
Your grand daughter, Aleya
Going "Back to the Ranch." I made this video after my Grandma's last visit to Colorado where we found the ruins of her Grandparent's ranch in Golden Gate Canyon State Park. This trip was priceless, and she talked about it for the months following. I'm so glad I got to help make this happen. 
 


Comments

Ian Henyon
10/30/2013 07:55

Beautiful story. I'm sure they are thrilled to have such a talented grand daughter.

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Mom
10/31/2013 19:22

Dear Aleya; Such a wonderful tribute to your grandparents! You were very blessed to get a 'lion's share' of their love and time as the oldest (to experience them as younger grandparents) and when we lived close to them for 6+ years of your life. Thank you for taking the time to write all of this down for all of us to share. It's true....they had a great capacity for love, living life fully, not being afraid to explore new avenues, and cherishing each other and all of us. I miss them enormously ~ I love you honey!

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Ben
11/07/2013 15:49

Aleya - thanks for sharing this. Somehow I didn't find out until just now that your grandmother was gone. I am really glad that I got to meet her and I do know how much she meant to you......

Ben

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