top of page

If a grandma falls in the forest.

It’s been a year since she died but I still see reminders of Grandma every day. Mostly in the handmade pieces of her that live in my house. Needlepoint tea towels. Quilts. Afghans. Crocheted hand towels.

{Want to hear what a horrible person I am? Once, Grandma was helping me with garage sale prep and she came across a box with some of the towels she’d crocheted for me. Yep, I had put them in the sale pile. This was at least 14 years ago when I was a silly newlywed and thought everything in my house had to match the Crate & Barrel catalog, but I can still feel the overwhelming shame. She quietly folded them and put them in her purse, saying something about using them herself. Nicely done, Ash.}

I have the box full of birthday cards, one for each of the 39 years we shared the planet. (Three years in a row were the exact same Hallmark card. I gave her a hard time and the following year’s card had a note, “See? Different card!”)

This past Thanksgiving, Aunt Sherry brought Grandma’s journals and we all skimmed through them. I claimed the stack as my reading material for the next few months and read them I did. A few pages each night. Her entries were daily, beginning in 1991, the year Grandpa died.

I was struck by many things and wish I had bookmarked the pages which held the best stories.

  1. The funny ones – “I borrowed thermals to wear to the KU football game. They made me feel like a rollie pollie.” (Her spelling was fantastic. She baked LOTS of angle food cakes.)

  2. The ones telling of her bad ass-ery – “I mowed and edged the yard and cut down some branches that needed it.” (she was seventy-freaking-four at this point)

  3. The ones that show how things have changed – “I got my first credit card today. Now a member of the charge generation.” (age 71)

  4. The ones that show things never change – “Went to Darla’s for a Longaberger party. Bought a nice basket I didn’t need.”

But as the twenty six years of life without Grandpa wore on, the entries became less entertaining. And it became increasingly real that Grandma was increasingly lonely.  And my heart grew increasingly heavy.

This led to a conversation with Smitty about the ability (or inability) of the interwebs and social media to alleviate loneliness these days. Does virtual connection make us less lonely or does it just make us FEEL less lonely? (Which led to the existential question: can we be lonely if we don’t actually feel lonely?)

But more than that, it led to a gut wrenching question I haven’t been able to comfortably answer: If Grandma didn’t feel loved by me, did I actually love her? Or did I just love having a Grandma? Having someone dote on me and send me cards and make me gifts and bake my favorite treats?

What I know from my forty years here so far is this: loving the way someone makes me feel doesn’t mean I love them. It means I love me.

She lived an hour away and I rarely “had time” (eye roll) for her.

It’s easy to convince myself I’m doing an okay job of loving the inner circle folks in my life. Since they’re quite literally under my feet and in my face (Hi, Smitty!) on the daily, small deeds of care are very little skin off my back. Very little time out of my super important schedule. Very little space in my mind devoted to someone other than ME.

If I want to extend my love umbrella to include a larger flock (ie – peeps I say I love but who abide outside of my daily thought chain), it takes EFFORT. And WORK. And ENERGY. And occasionally even (oh, the horror) doing things that aren’t super high on MY fun list.

And if I want to claim love as something I do well in this life, in general and towards many, it requires demoting myself from Queen of my Thought Throne. Gulp.

The messages I most often hear tell me I could be awesomer if I just bought this, this, and this, but also, don’t forget, I’m #enough and #deserveit and #selfcare #selfcare #selfcare.

I have a hard time believing what I need is more concern for myself. I’m quite skilled at caring about me, it’s what I’ve spent most of my forty years doing.

And if I’m being completely honest, I know in my heart that my “wellness” depends little on how I care for myself and depends wholly on how well I care for those I claim to love. It’s really all that matters to me in this life.

Thanks for the reminder, Grandma. Miss you. Love you. I’ll do better.


Commenting has been turned off.
bottom of page