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My Grandmother, the Writer

I love to write. I love finding the right string of words to convey an emotion or thought. I love the way my sentences sound when I read them out loud after writing them down. I don’t write quickly. I scrutinize each word that I use and question if there is a better one. I started this blog, in the midst of all the chaos going on in my life, because when I sit down to write my mind settles and I am able to do something that I love.

Any skill that I have at writing I received from my mom. An English major, she’s written far more and writes far better than I do. I am able to write so openly and honestly because she set the example years ago by opening herself up and writing her thoughts and emotions on a page. She taught me that it’s okay to be vulnerable in the words that you write. There are stories to be told in our minds and until we put the words on a page they remain hidden in our brains unshared with the world. The world may or may not embrace our stories but until we are willing to share them, we will never know.

My mother’s love for writing came from my grandmother. The story goes that my grandmother was always writing something in her early adult years. From writing and directing the school plays at her children’s schools to authoring her own column in the church newsletter, when people needed something written, they asked my grandmother to write it.

It wasn’t until she went on a spiritual retreat in the early 1960s that she met a mentor who encouraged her to take her writing more seriously. The mentor, Emmy, told my grandmother to take 30 minutes every day to sit in absolute silence doing nothing and to write Emmy once a month about what she feels and hears or if she feels and hears nothing, to write about how that feels.

And so, for several years my grandmother wrote. Gradually, as my grandmother started teaching 9th grade English her time for writing grew less and less. My family is lucky to have a lot of her writings from the 60s; my aunt compiled a book for each of us to keep with her work. It only takes reading one of her short stories to realize that my grandmother had a way with words.

My grandmother will turn 90 in May. I’ve been blessed to spend the last few days with her. She doesn’t write any more but she is still a fantastic storyteller. Her memory of recent years is a bit fuzzy, as it tends to be in the mind of a 90-year-old. But the memories of her childhood and early adulthood are crystal clear. For two days I had the pleasure of listening to her tell stories of riding her pony on her Kansas farm as a young girl, how she came to meet my grandfather and why she became a 9th grade English teacher. She told me stories of traveling to Ireland, England, Turkey, Greece and Germany. If I asked her a question, she gave me a story for an answer.

My grandmother is a storyteller. She used to write them down but now just shares them by memory. They are still the same beautiful stories only spoken not written. I was blessed not only to listen to her stories this weekend but also to receive her passion for writing in life. I hope I can share this passion to the generations that come after me just as she shared it; first with my mother and now with me.

Thank you Grandma.