Hope is seeing  your grandmother’s flowers in your aunt-in-law’s backyard. It’s watching second cousins who have only met once latch onto each other with ease and love. It’s eating sausages cooked by a young man who fought back childhood cancer that could have killed him. It’s taking pictures as directed by a tiny girl and complying to her demand, “Me see em!” entirely to hear her squeal “Oh my GOD!” even if you just took a picture of a water glass.  It’s watching a total of ten first and second cousins ranging from 18 down to 2 years in age play joyfully together for an entire afternoon and evening, even after rain drives everyone indoors at a small lakeside cabin. It’s catching three sisters laughing, when they were only supposed to smile.

Three sisters laughing

Dear Helen,

I barely knew you. I met you several times, the first when Scott and I started dating. You took the whole family to eat at the Dog Team restaurant, where food was served in impossible little Ferris Wheels.  I was sad for you when, several years later, it burned and was not rebuilt. You came to our wedding and our baby shower.  We got together in New York State and in Vermont. Although Scott and I never lived close enough to spend much time with you, I still understood that you were his grandmother and an important figure in his life.

But I barely knew you.

I never knew your mother died when you were five, or that her name was Jennie, or that it was the influenza of 1919 that killed her. I never knew that your father was so strict that it was something of a rebellion for you to attend parties with your nursing school colleagues. Although I knew you survived your first husband by many years, I never knew what Allen looked like.

I never knew that nineteen of your children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren could gather in a two bedroom cabin with a small porch and laugh for some seven hours. And I would never have guessed that the five spouses mixed into that number would enjoy the event as much as the blood relatives. I never imagined that from one person could descend such camaraderie.

Ninety seven years is a long life. It’s a life that resonates.

And I never thought to say thank you.


Your granddaughter-in-law Jessie


I’m prompt-hopping with this one. The Lightning and The Lightning Bug asked us to flicker our inspiration towards hope. Hope is normally a dangerous emotion for me, but I found a rather pleasant way to approach the subject. And Amanda at The Last Mom On Earth is hosting a week of open letters. This one is to my husband’s grandmother. And yes, I know the “dear” part falls in the middle, when technically the salutation in a letter comes first. But I’m not your typical letter-writer, either.

About jesterqueen:
Jessie Powell is the Jester Queen. She likes to tell you about her dog, her kids, her fiction, and her blog, but not necessarily in that order.


Hope — 19 Comments

  1. This is so beautiful. It makes me remember the days when all of my extended family would gather and play cards together for hours, almost til the sun came up. I loved that it all happened when I was a child, before I started dissecting the whole thing. Back when I could just enjoy it, you know?


    • I do know. My family never did this shit. We’d have killed each other. My grandparents’ friends sort of did it. But I barely knew my Mom’s cousins, who never had children. Her brother died before he could have kids. My Dad’s brother was 14 or so years older and an alcoholic. Those cousins were too old to ever get to know. So I totally dissect all of it. I know the undercurrents. And yet I marvel in it, because the love is genuine. There were only a few forced moments, and those were forced out of love, not duty. I’m blown away by my husband’s family. I’m touched by them every time we get together.

  2. This letter brought tears, Jessie. Life is such a fleeting thing. All we can hope for is a few people who will take the time to enjoy it with us.

    • I would have never in my life imagined that I could have so much fun with such a diverse group. Scott’s family represents all political persuasions, at least three religious or nonreligious perspectives, and multiple cultural backgrounds. And it’s not all roses by any means, but they consistently overcome the negative things to pull together in love. And I feel such honor to be a part of that group.

  3. Beautiful, beautiful words but this is so much more than words. And yes, the dear in the middle threw me, I thought the first paragraph was an intro. Gratitude and appreciation are so important. 🙂

    • I toyed with putting the first paragraph last, but LB wanted the word “hope” first, and I thought it would be cool if it started off like an abstract rumination and then honed in and became specific. But yeah, I figured I’d be tossing a wrench (spanner?) into the works!

  4. I love your letter, so thoughtful and beautiful. I think I want to write a letter to my grandmother, now. Thank you for linking up!

    • It’s funny — I have no idea what I’d say to my own grandmother. She was always the correspondent. She wrote letters to EVERYONE. I have no idea what to write to her dead self. Hmmm.

  5. This is what I love about you Jessie….so not-typical!

    Me thinks we may be sisters, from different mothers.

    Beautifully done, my friend!

    • Thank you! I’m finding through this blog that I have lots of sisters. And it’s heaven. I’m so used to being the person who is the odd one out. I’ve gotten used to the understanding that I’m not like anybody else. (And not in a celebrate-your-uniqueness kind of way, but in a rather alarming, holy-hell-nobody-is-like-her-at-all way) And I’m finding that I’m at least a little closer to others than I would have expected.

  6. jesse, this is so wonderful. Nothing can compare with the loving atmosphere of a healthy extended family.

  7. What a heartfelt letter, Jessie. I loved that last line in the first paragraph. It’s both beautiful and so very sad at the same time.

    • Scott’s Mom and her sisters are quite a trio. I was worried they would all be too serious, and then a nephew was cutting up and they were all laughing and fussing at him, and they completely forgot the camera.

    • I think the family is still processing it. There are definite … there is a sense of peace. Of relief. She was ready, and I think she died content.