Art of Letter Writing – Family, Love, Forgiveness, Perspective – Meaning of Life – by DyAnna Grondahl. The North Star Reports: Global Citizenship and Digital Literacy, at NorthStarReports.org and facebook.com/NorthStarReports
[Source of image, via CC Search, https://search.creativecommons.org/photos/281c8c00-ba4b-4cd1-9562-97ad8743eb7b ]
My family is one which is full of tension, chaos, drama, and love – I’m sure many can relate. Specifically, pre-2015 the point of contention was drawn toward my mother’s step mother, Jean. I am free from many of the details, and I don’t feel any need to get acquainted with them. My grandma Diane, the family matriarch, baker-gardener extraordinaire had died prior to my birth, leaving our family without its grounding for a period of time. It hit everyone hard – she was much beloved. My grandma Jean and papa Curt married in 1998, and the re-marriage was controversial to many members of my family. The marriage and the ensuing events sparked tensions which stayed with me until Curt’s death in 2015. After he died, tensions continued to contaminate the funeral arrangements. Little did we know, after the funeral was over, and the familiar faces returned to their homes, my family entered a period of intervention and reflection. It is in this time which we began to recognize the extremely important role Jean played in our lives. We realized very soon after the funeral, that, without Jean, Curt would not have lived nearly as long as he did.
I spent most of my grieving over my grandpa Curt in the stage of anger. I was livid over the uneven distribution of childhood among my siblings and I. Specifically, it seemed, they all had so many memories of going to Grandma and Grandpa’s. I, at least at the top of my head, had fewer than I could count on my hand. The reason I chose not to engage in the familial drama is because it has already robbed me of enough experience of which it was not deserving. In sorting out my anger in this grief, I sought something that could make up for the years of missing out.
One evening, sitting in my college dorm room, under the fluorescent lights, in a chair that kept my roommate up with its endless creaks, I slid my biology book over, and instead wrote a letter in my notebook. I had been envious of my hall-mates who had grandparents who were the more typical pillars of the family. It wasn’t fair that I didn’t get to experience grandparents like my hall-mates, or, frankly, my siblings did. Then, in a moment, I realized how ridiculous my envy was, because I had someone up north who had spent years with the family, who wanted to be that part of the family. So, I decided that I was going to personally invite her in. I wrote her a letter. I wrote about school, I wrote about Duluth, and I asked about my hometown of Roseau. Writing felt good. Specifically, writing Jean felt good. In a way, it was like I had a do-over. I was lucky enough to get to have a grandparent again, and I wasn’t going to let it get messed up this time. I stamped the letter with one of the 45 cent American flags I stole from my mom’s office before I left home. I walked to the campus post office right then and dropped it in golden mail slot. Just days later, enclosed in a hug and an envelope, I received a letter in return.
Jean and I have continued exchanging letters consistently in the four years since. I have moved a half a dozen times, and yet she never misses a beat. I still talk about school, even though it’s over, I still ask about goings-on in Roseau, and I am still so grateful to have her as my grandparent. More recently, Jean had to move from the home she and Curt shared for years. The bittersweet ending was well-captured in our spring and early-summer letters. My most recent letter from Jean, dated 7-19-19, contained her warmth and excitement toward her new home. “Dear DyAnna, today I got my 1st letter from you in my new home. What fun! I was hoping you would continue to write after we were both “settled in.” I love your letters.”
DyAnna serves as a senior editor for NSR.
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