Despite the personal, geographic, and religious differences between these two remarkable women, Grandma Ollie and Grandma Roa were united in their love of their children and us, their grandchildren. On special occasions like graduations, they reunited to celebrate with us in Connecticut. It was in 1993, when they were in town for my brother Jed's high school graduation, that I captured my grandmas out exploring in a local garden.
Perhaps it is fitting that the year comes to a close featuring a letter from me to them, one of a handful of the letters that have surfaced that I sent to them over the years.
Although this is written to Grandma Ollie (on left above), since I did this on a work computer, I probably used a version of this for Grandma Roa as well; most of it was probably was the same. Cutting and pasting a Word document is infinitely easier than writing out letters long-hand, plus my writing is a bit odd – and their older eyes need larger and more legible printing.
Letter folded up in a card:
Saturday, April 4, 1998
Dear Grandma [Ollie],
I finally got a day off from the office and realized that the calendar was flipped to April. I could I have sworn it was still March. I feel like I have been swimming upstream against the clock of time since way back in February. Please forgive me for not writing sooner.
Life has been speeding out of control since our trip West to drop off J at the MTC. I’m glad that Mom and Dad let me come with them. It was nice to spend time together as family, and since I hadn’t gotten to know Kelli before, I really enjoyed staying at their house. Jed and I still have to learn to deal with each other as adults and that is going to take more visits. Kelli hasn’t ever gotten the opportunity to see us interact before, so it was an eye-opening experience for her. We weren’t too bad, but there was some juvenile behavior on both our parts, old bickering that’s a throwback to growing up. I also got a chance to meet her side of the family and see Jed acting as an uncle, brother-in-law, and son-in-law. If he’s as good with his kids as he is with his nieces, he’ll be a good daddy. The house is adorable and they really seem to be settling into their jobs, the marriage, and the community.
It was nice to be able to spend a day in Logan [Utah] seeing Aunt Shirley, Uncle Preston, Aunt Dorothy, and Aunt Ruby. The town hardly resembles what I remember and I swear the house gets smaller every time I see it. The “girls” don’t look a day older, and I always feel like that little 8-year-old when I visit Aunt Shirley’s house. It triggers memories from the years in Utah, which I don’t have that often.
We also spent time with Grandma [Roa] when we were in Ogden. Despite fears that things would be very tense, it wasn’t too bad. The only awkward part was seeing my cousins again. The last time I saw them was in 1994 for Ray’s wedding, and things are just as strained now as they were then. I don’t think we said that much to each other the entire time we were there. Clint, who’s Jed’s age, was off doing his trucking run, and we never saw him. The six of us have really grown up and had radically different experiences since we moved in 1980. It’s unfortunate that we’re so uncomfortable with each other. I think if we had a chance to spend more time together we might begin to re-develop an adult relationship. We’ll have to see what the years bring.
J did very well about hiding how anxious he was to go to the MTC until the morning he was due to report. Dad gave him a blessing before we left Grandma’s and except for lunch, where he was cracking jokes all over the place (his way of hiding things), he was very, very quiet.
I was really proud of J. Before we dropped him off at the MTC, we stopped in Provo for lunch. Obviously, a lot of other families had had the same idea. As we can in, there was a large family group in front of us waiting for a table, with a very frightened looking young man in a brand-new suit. J walked right up to the lad, said “Hi, how you doing? Where are you going and when do you report?” The poor boy looked like he thought J was going to jump him. Turns out the boy was to report a half hour after J and was bound for Portugal. J was like, “good, I’ll see you in language class.” That’s my brother. [J was eventually to end up in Recife, Brazil – the other Portuguese speaking country.]
He’s already so much more prepared than some of the elder I’ve seen who’ve been in the field for a while. Although he’s been frustrated by the whole visa situation and struggling with the language and the inevitable personality conflicts that occur when four strangers live in a room together, his letters are really upbeat and positive.
Mom cried the entire time, which we had expected. After we left, I truly understood why Dad had told her he wasn’t going through that experience along again. [Dad had dropped off Jed at the MTC a few years earlier.] I think J was just glad that the family group wasn’t bigger. There were kids there with almost 20 family members. The mission leaders were very good about explaining life at the MTC and they tried to make the experience as painless as possible, but it was still hard on Mom. Whenever he leaves the country will be hard too, but that first separation at the door of the MTC really took a lot out of her.
I’d truly forgotten what is like to be in a region where the Church is predominant. Just to see a chapel on seemingly every street and the mass exodus of MTC bound missionaries on the highway is awe-inspiring.
The last few days we were out West, Mom, Dad and I went sight-seeing. The enclosed pictures don’t truly do the landscape justice. The weather was only good a few days of the trip, and Dad and I would like to go back with good cameras and film and do a few hikes to scope out sites for a photographic study. They tell me that when the sun hits some of the redrock and lava rock at certain points, its truly spectacular. Maybe in a few years I’ll make it back out there to visit Jed and Kelli, and J where ever he settles.
Ever since we got back, I’ve been running at full tilt. The weekdays at the office are getting longer. It seems that my responsibilities grow every year. This spring is particularly bad because we are all scrambling to cover two women who are out on maternity leave: one we expected, the other lady had been confined to bed rest for the last trimester of her term. Thankfully, everything worked out for them, but the rest of us are starting to get a little ragged. I wondered why I was so tired the other day when I realized that today is the one day off I’ve had since March 23 and the last until I head home for Easter weekend.
Tomorrow it’s back to work. We are presenting an opera and before the benefit crowd shows up for brunch and a lecture at 1, I have to assemble some brochures, stuff the programs with the brochures, set up seating assignments, make sure the caterer is okay, organize the ushers and run interference with the opera cast and orchestra. I also get to the run the at-the-door Box Office and handle any other emergencies that erupt. Whew, I’m exhausted just thinking about it. The weekends are filled with fund raising dinners and mini-concerts intended to woo wealthy patrons out of their money. The dinners aren’t the hard part; it’s all the minute preparations like the flowers, set-up, caterer preparations, and staff coordination that’s the hard part. I come home and collapse into bed.
I am truly looking forward to leaving work early on Thursday to head home for Easter. I haven’t had a haircut since before Christmas and I can’t see through my bangs, and putting my hair up in a ponytail is just not professional or flattering. I also plan to SLEEP and meet up with some old high school friends and just relax, after I get the snow tires changed. Since I’m planning a bridal shower for a college friend, I also have to run to a few stores to look for trimmings. The problem with organizing this shower is that I’m in NY, the other bridesmaids are in Albany, NY and Boston, MA and the bride and her family are in Maine. The shower is scheduled for June 13th in Maine and I’m having an interesting time corresponding with everyone via the Internet to organize the party.
I also want to spend some time with Dad, providing of course that Church isn’t too bad. His responsibilities are beginning to wear him down and I worry about him. He says he’s fine, but even his e-mail echoes with a bone-tiredness that he denies. He and Mom went away this weekend and hopefully they’ll get some time to unwind.
I hope you and Mom have a good time next week. I’m sorry my work schedule is such that I can’t come with her. Have a hush puppy and some barbeque for me!
I love you and miss you horribly.
Here a[sic] just a few photos of our trip West. Enjoy,
Prints of ruins on the Indian Reservation
Scenes from the West
St. George Temple
Grandma Roa and Ollie exploring and appreciating nature in their own ways.
It was almost a year ago that I started this journey. Thanks for walking with me.
I hope you've come to love my grandmas as much as I do.
I hope you've come to love my grandmas as much as I do.