This weekend, my Grandma Rose would have been celebrating her 100th birthday.
I wrote a letter to her last year that I posted on this site. I’ve made a few modifications to the original note to make it “current,” but I wanted to share the gist of her story again. I think she would have liked that. I know I do.
Dear Grandma Rose,
I’ve been thinking about you a lot lately.
I know … you’re not actually going to be reading this. In fact, you probably would have preferred texting – because that’s what the kids do. And you always liked bonding with the grandkids.
I hadn’t been exactly sure what brought about all these recent memories of you, other than the belief that you had been watching me from afar right now and played a part into steering me back toward writing.
You used to send me hand-written postcards all the time when I was a kid. I sort of remembered that, but last year, I came across some of those postcards. In fact, at that top of screen, I scanned one of them for you. Kind of funny, even back in 1973, you led off by asking me a baseball question. Even funnier was the Chas. Wasserstrom line – which appears on all of the postcards you sent me. But it was nice to see “Dear Chuckie” at the top of the postcard.
The postcards just sort of turned up. They were in a scrapbook-related box Dad gave me a few years ago when he was cleaning up part of the basement – and they were in my house.
I had done a lot of soul searching in recent years trying to figure out the next chapter in my life. Over the last year, the writing bug bit me in a huge way for the first time in a long time.
I always wondered where that writing bug came from. It’s not that Mom and Dad don’t write – but math and engineering aren’t exactly human interest/storytelling subjects.
Just like you used to brag about your family, I love bragging about my girls. You would have loved watching them play sports, even though I know sports weren’t your thing.
Thankfully, they get all their athletic genes from Michelle. I know you referred to her as “What’s her name?” It wasn’t meant to be mean; old age had already started creeping in. Heck, I wish your mind had stayed around longer to get to know her better. You would have really liked her, and she would have really liked you. She says all the time that little kids, old people and dogs really like her.
You know, it’s hard to believe you’ve been gone for over a decade. Sadly, I was there for your last breath. I won’t allow being there that day to be my last memory of you.
I’m sure I think of you a lot more these days because of where the girls are in school. I remember back in the day when you were sort of the official “field trip chaperone” because you could be – and because you wanted to be. You probably got more out of all of those museum tours than anyone in the class.
I also think of you a lot in years when I need to renew my driver’s license. I so remember that day back in 1981 (October 20, to be exact) when I was finally legal. After dumping Mom and Dad off at the house, I grabbed Pucci the Wingdog and headed over to your apartment to take you for a spin through the McDonald’s drive thru. I always knew how to woo the ladies.
Since you never learned to drive, you relied on the kindness of children and grandchildren to get you from place-to-place.
Somewhere along the way, you handed me an envelope. I don’t remember when, but I do recall you saying something along the lines of “Don’t open this now. Put it away.” You didn’t elaborate much, which was unusual, since talking was one of your core skills. The only thing you told me was that you had found something, but it would mean more when I was older.
I took the envelope, and then we probably started talking about important issues – like where we were going to eat. And then I forgot about it.
Magically … mysteriously … karma … whatever word you want to use, I found that envelope in a box in Mom and Dad’s basement. My guess is that I just threw it aside, but since Dad doesn’t throw anything away (Thanks Dad!), that white envelope with your unmistakable handwriting was there when I started looking for mementos that could supplement my musings.
I opened the envelope, and I found another envelope inside – an old parchment envelope.
Inside that envelope was a letter on old faded stationery. But it was more than “just a letter.” I discovered where my writing bug must have come from. Grandma, you instilled it in me way back when, and you must be making sure that it’s the path I’m following now.
It was a typed letter sent to you back in 1933 – just before your 16th birthday – from H.F. Harrington, the director of the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern. You probably saw humor in that your last name was misspelled! But getting past that, it was a letter suggesting a career that you probably wish you would have gone into.
The second paragraph tells me exactly why you would have wanted me to see the letter now.
“Journalism is really a serial story, so that this first chapter will probably lead to further developments and achievements in your writing career. We hope that when you come to make a decision on the school of journalism where you may continue your work under competent supervision, you will consider the advantages of the Medill School of Journalism of Northwestern University.”
As I’ve returned to the passion that drove me to Missouri’s Journalism School in the first place, I’m guessing you’ve been involved in setting this course I’m now on. You have reenergized me. You have taken the steering wheel away from me to drive me in the direction you would have liked to have followed yourself.
I didn’t thank you enough for everything when you were physically around.
But wherever you are now, please know that you’re still playing a big role in who I am and what I do. Thank You!
I don’t know if I should sign this “Chuckie” or “Chas. Wasserstrom” – but in either case, you know who I am: Your grateful grandson.