“I’ve chosen to be cremated,” Grandma Flora wrote in her latest letter to Mom. “Just scatter me among my pine trees. I’ve been closer to God outdoors than I’ve been in any church.”
When Dad heard the news, he exploded.
“I knew it!” he bellowed. “I knew she’d pull some fool stunt. That woman is next-door to a heathen! Of all the wicked, cantankerous--”
“Stop it!” I snapped. “How can you say that? She’s YOUR mother!”
“Keep out of this, Kaley,” Dad said.
“No! I won’t! I’m seventeen, and I’ve never even MET my own grandma because you two keep fighting!”
“You’ve written letters.”
“So? A letter can’t bake cookies for me, or come to my graduation.”
“A letter can’t chew your head off either,” Dad grunted, sinking into his recliner and picking up the sports section.
As the weeks passed, I prayed that Dad and Grandma would make peace with each other. They never did. When we heard that Grandma Flora had died, Mom and I flew from Texas to Alaska to attend the ceremony by ourselves.
Aunt Rachel met us at the airport and herded us out to her car, shoving me in the backseat along with our baggage.
“Oops! Almost forgot,” she said, rummaging through her colossal purse. “I wanted you to see … this!”
She pulled out a stack of envelopes. “Here,” she said, handing them to me. “They’re your letters. I found them in Flora’s bureau, under a half-stick of gum and some old photos.”
Laughing, she climbed into the driver’s seat beside Mom and started the engine, pulling us out of the parking lot and onto the main road.
As Mom and Aunt Rachel reminisced, I untied the scrap of Christmas ribbon around the letters. With shaking hands, I picked up the first one and began to read.
To DAY We HAVE SNOW Out SiDe. IT is WHiTE AND COlD. I cant WaiT TO Go Out to PLAY. I gOT New MiteNS.
Smiling at the childish handwriting, I began skimming through the other letters, their words staring up at me like long-forgotten faces.
“Dear Grandma, Thank you for the birthday presents you sent.”
“Dear Grandma, I got an ‘A’ on my math paper today.”
“Dear Grandma, Guess what? I asked Jesus into my heart during Sunday School!”
“Dear Grandma, Why do you never come to visit? Is it because of Dad?”
“Dear Grandma, I got the lead role in the school play. I wish you could come to see me.”
Finally, I came to the letter I’d written after my argument with Dad.
“Dear Grandma, Why can’t you and Dad make up? I want you to come to my graduation. All the other girl’s grandmothers are coming. Why won’t you?”
I bit my lip, crushing the letter between my fingers.
With tears filling my eyes, I opened the last letter. Its words seemed to leap at me from the page. But they weren’t my words. They were Grandma’s.
I know you’re angry with me right now. You’re wondering why I’ve settled for letters all these years instead of coming to see you. I know I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my life, especially with your dad. But sweetheart, I really do love you, and I love your letters. They make me feel close to you, even though you’re far away. I’ve treasured the letters you sent me because YOU are my greatest treasure.”
I blinked back the tears, suddenly feeling light inside. The letter was longer, much longer, three whole sheets, front and back, but I couldn’t read them now. Remembering my argument with Dad, I knew I had something to do instead.
Grabbing the letter I’d crumpled up, I folded it in half and tore it into little bits.
Rolling down the car window, I tossed the pieces outside, turning to watch as the wind blew them across the road.
“Hey!” Aunt Rachel cried. “Close that window! It’s cold out there.”
Laughing, I did as she said. “Sorry. I just had some ashes I needed to scatter.”
“Nothing. Do you have a pen in that purse of yours?”
She frowned at me in the rearview mirror. “Of course!”
“Can I borrow it?”
Sighing, she passed me her purse, and I dug through it until I found a pen.
Then, using the blank back of an old envelope, I started writing a letter of my own.
Today is my first visit to Grandma’s.”
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