Dear Grandma Janice,
You would think that after five years I would have a lot to tell you right off the bat. But right now I’m not quite sure what to write. You cross my mind at least once a day, and some days are harder than others. I often think about what you would say if you could see what the world has turned into since you left. How you would react to the orange buffoon that they call Trump and the resurgence of the undying racism that plagues our country. I imagine that you would cuss at the TV constantly (like you already did), and call Trump and anyone associated with him a piece a shit, or something just as colorful. You never had a problem speaking your mine, a quality that I always admired and still try to emulate. I think that ultimately you would be disappointed with how our country has acted over the past few years, but you would tell me not to worry. You’d say to keep pressing on and don’t stop until I got to where I needed to go. I’m happy to report that I haven’t stopped, but it definitely has not been easy.
You’re probably more interested in what has happened in my life than you are about the state of our declining political system. I guess I should start by ripping off a bandage quick and easy: I have tattoos. At the moment I have seven to be exact, with no desire to stop anytime soon. I know that you always hated tattoos of any kind, but it’s my body and I get to choose what I want to do with it. You’d probably cuss me out and tell me I was being common, but in the end you would still love me all the same. I would just be required to wear long shirts and jeans whenever we would be around each other.
The other bandage is this: I have a boyfriend. His name is Sean and we have been dating for three years. He’s also white and nine years older than me. I can already hear you going off, but trust me, I’m 80% sure I know what I’m doing. I sometimes wonder what it would have been like if you two had met. No doubt that you would be very skeptical at first. You were always under the notion that no guy was good enough for me, but I think Sean could counter that. He’s stuck by me in some of my darkest moments and never fails to make me smile. He’s kind and loving, and wants to be the best man he can be for me. I think you would grow to like him, and he would do the same with you.
I graduated from college three years ago, and have since entered the workforce. I’ll admit that it was a rocky beginning for me. The first year after college I was stuck in a cycle of dead end job after dead end job. There was even a phase where I was taking glamour shots of storage units out in rural Ohio (during that phase I came close to being arrested or shot a few times). I was a slave to the retail industry, but eventually found my North Star and made my way to freedom. I currently work for state government in mental health and addiction services. I’m a member of the communications team, and I’m finally doing something that is related to what I studied in school. It’s not the perfect job by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s a good start for me. I’m learning a lot and have met some great people. In all honestly I have to give some credit to Andrea for helping me get here in the first place.
I haven’t given up on my dreams of being a writer, but in many ways my dreams have evolved. I’m also a photographer, and a good one at that if I do say so myself. I wish I could show you some of my work; I think you would be proud of it. I’ve done some traveling around this country and the rest of the world, and my is it a beautiful place. One of my motivations for traveling is because you didn’t always get the chance to. You told me not to get stuck in one place, and so far I haven’t. I hope to learn more and see more as the years go on. That way when we see each other again, I’ll have many stories to tell you.
Unfortunately I don’t read as much as I used to, but I’ve started to build up the habit again. You were one of my inspirations for wanting to read more, and I’ll never forget the countless nights we spent together reading in your room. I never told you this while you were alive, but those were some of the best moments of my life. Even if the rest of my day had royally sucked, being able to sit together to read and listen to jazz on the radio always made me feel right with the world. I often wish to have just one more moment like that. I would give anything for it.
I could go on and on about so many things that have been happening in my life, but right now I want to talk about yours. Specifically, the parts of your life that you hid from the rest of us. I’m sorry if I sound accusatory; it’s definitely not my intention. Please know that I don’t think of you any differently because of what has happened. In fact, if I do think of you in a different light, it’s in a completely positive one. At the end of the day you’re my grandma, and that matters more than anything else. And you’re one of the strongest women I know.
I can’t remember my exact reaction when dad told me that you had two kids that you had put up for adoption when they were born. I’m sure I was shocked at the news, but more than anything I just had countless questions. I wanted to know who they were, where they lived, and most importantly, did they have any kids. I wanted to meet them because they were a part of your story, and had now become a part of mine. It was uncharted territory that I never thought I would have to navigate, but life has a way of doing that sometimes. A part of me worried about what we would find, but for the most part I was just excited.
We found Lena first. Dad, Brian and Andrea hired a private investigator, and after what seemed like forever, they found her. I have to tell you grandma, it was like an out of this world experience meeting Lena. She looks exactly like you. Not just in her face, but her whole stature. When I see her walking from afar, my heart skips a beat because for a few moments I think you’ve come back to life. Lena is truly one of the kindest people I’ve ever met, and it shows through all of her words and actions. She has great kids too, and it’s nice to have a whole new batch of cousins to get to know. I know that you would have loved all of them the same way you loved the rest of us.
Next we found Cortney. Again, Cortney is like a carbon copy of you. She has your looks of course, but also your personality. She’s quick-witted and has a wicked sense of humor. She’s the cool aunt in my book, and I’ve enjoyed getting to know her more over the past year and a half. Cortney comes from a loving family, and it shows. I hope that she and Lena can feel that same kind of love from our family in honor of you.
I can’t imagine what must have been going on in your mind all those years when no one knew your secret. I think you may have felt some shame, but please know that no one who loves you would ever want you to feel that way. No one has the right to judge you or the decisions you made. You did what you thought was best for everyone involved, and in the end I know what you did, you did out of love. You never wanted to hurt anyone because you knew what real hurt was. I respect you greatly for your decisions.
I won’t take up too much more of your time with my letter. I know you must be busy with all that’s going on wherever you are. I will try my best to live a life that you would be proud of, and one that I can take pride in too. I love you more than words can express, and I miss you every day. I believe that we will see each other again some day, and for that I can’t wait. But while I’m still in this life, I promise to make it a good one. I love you Grandma Janice. Now and always.