Dear Maw-Maw, Gramp, and Leo–
I know you’ve been gone awhile now, but I don’t get back to Illinois as often as I’d like, and so when I do, I feel your absence. And I know that me talking to you is all about me, but I appreciate the chance to talk about what I’ve seen.
You are missed. Not in that sad and syrupy way where people constantly talk about you and bemoan your passing, but in the wordless honoring of your traditions. We still hesitate to sit in your chairs. We still tend your gardens and yards. We still keep your tools where you left them. We still make the food you used to make for us. We still let the kids run around the house the way you used to (that occasional squeal is coming from the little girl we added to the mix, by the way). We still eat Quonset pizza.
There is still space where you used to be. The stories that we reference but don’t tell, the jokes that we try to remember, the wise observations that go unmade, and the places where you would have had us laughing. We haven’t built any shrines, but we leave some space in our life together that you used to occupy. No one needs to say that we miss you, because we all know it. We miss you by carrying on as you taught us.
Everyone is doing fine. We’re all getting older, of course, and kids keep coming on the scene, and we have our setbacks, sadnesses, and losses. But we do our best to take them in stride, to feel them but not to be overwhelmed by them. We remember all that you endured, and we are strengthened. And we have our successes and victories, too– times when we want to celebrate with you, and remember again than you’re gone. At times like that, we want to thank you, because we know now how much you had to do with us being us. We know how powerful it is to be loved, and how transforming it is to be cared for and brought up. We know now that we stand on your shoulders, and we’re humbled and honored and a little scared to do so.
So I guess I’m trying to say thank you. There was no way to know how much you gave us until you were gone, but we know it now, and we’re trying to follow your examples and care for those we love the way you cared for us. Thanks for leading the way, and thanks for loving us in spite of our flaws.
PS. I cleaned out the gutters at Maw-Maw’s and Gram’s house. I know you’d never ask me to do that, but I also know you’d be happy to know it got done.