Dear Nana

Author’s note: My maternal grandmother, Dorothy Elizabeth Pope, died of ovarian cancer in 1997. She never got to see me as an adult, or meet her great-grandchildren. I miss her terribly and so often something will happen, or I’ll see something that will make me think of her and think “I wish Nana could be here to see this. She would have liked that.” This post is a collection of these thoughts.

Dear Nana,

Did you know I learned to crochet? When I sit with a new skein of yarn and work up something new and unique, I think of you. Of all of the needlepoint and quilting and embroidery you did over the years. I think, I bet Nana would be proud of me and think it’s cool that I am doing something creative with my hands. I bet we would love going yarn shopping together!

Hannah's sewing project
Hannah modeling the flannel pajama bottoms she made herself in sewing class.

Nana, did you hear that Hannah is learning to sew? And Daniel, too. Oh you would have loved the little pillow alien he made in art class. And Hannah? She’s so talented. She can already make clothes from a pattern! She made the Kermit the Frog flannel pajama pants which are just adorable. You would be so proud. 

Nana, did you know that all of that Barbie furniture you made me when I was little, well I saved it all. And now, my kids play with it. All of those hours you spent, focusing on every little detail to make canopy beds, refrigerators, pool tables, kitchen appliances, and even tiny clocks, books and ice cream sundaes. It was so worth it! A new generation is getting joy out of your hard work. They may not be as careful with the delicate yarn and canvas pieces you made as I would like, but I know you made these things to be played with, not sit in a box. So I remind myself that a little wear and tear done in love is OK. Then I tell them about you. They ask me questions about you. They would love you and think you are awesome. 

Needlepoint Barbie furniture
Daniel and Olivia getting ready to play with the Barbie furniture you made.

Nana, would you be surprised to hear my kids love your tuna and noodle casserole? Probably not, since Vanessa and I always asked for it when we were kids. Every time I make it I think of you. Once I even tried to make your meatballs and beans dish! It didn’t turn out as good as yours, but Hannah, Daniel and Olivia thought it was delicious! I wish you were here to teach me your recipes. I remember how every summer we came to visit and on our first day you would always say “I’m going to the grocery store, what would you girls like to eat while you’re here?” No one ever planned an entire week’s worth of meals around what we wanted. That made me feel so important.

Nana
My beautiful Nana when she was in her early-twenties.

Nana – Did you know that sometimes I come across something with your handwriting, a card, back of a photograph, letter, and I start to cry. Did you know how hard it would be on the ones you left behind to not have you here with us anymore? I bet you did. You knew loss.

Dear Nana, save me a spot next to your recliner. We will have a lot of catching up to do.

Love,

Jelise

When our kids remind us that what we’re teaching them does make a difference

As parents we dish out a hundred bits of advice and instruction to our children every week. By repeating ourselves over and over we hope that we will impart some small intelligence. That we will provide them with the tools they need to be empathetic, honest, open-minded, and compassionate. That they will grow to know the difference between right and wrong, how to take responsibility for their actions, win humbly and lose graciously. But often it feels like we are a broken record that has become background noise and our children have, at best, decided we are spewing eye-roll-worthy old-people talk and, at worst, have tuned us out completely.

But then.

Then there are those moments that stop you in your tracks and convince you that you are getting through. That the seeds have been planted and some of them are starting to sprout. Those are the moments that make this whole parenting gig completely worth it.

My son’s hockey team has not had a particularly winning season. They’ve lost more than they’ve won, and a few of the games registered scores that made even the winning team feel bad for them. But they had an excellent coach who was not only encouraging, but gave every child lots of playing time and made them feel like they were good enough to be on that rink. Not once all season did my son cry a tear or throw a glove in frustration at their loses. If you had seen my son play hockey in his first season, just last year, you would know that this has not always been the case.

Daniel after hockey game
Daniel proudly wearing his bronze medal and sweaty mop top after a tough game.

Today their team entered the semi-finals of the season as the 3rd seated (out of 4 teams in their division) to play the 2nd seated team. Earlier in the week my husband and I had talked about  well-known under-dog stories, like the 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team, in an attempt to encourage him to believe their team could win the semi-finals and make it to the playoffs. When we arrived at the rink the 1st and 4th seated teams were already playing and to everyone’s amazement the 4th place team was beating an undefeated, crazy-good team of boys and girls. The game was intense and the crowd was completely wrapped in it, cheering for these underdogs. I excitedly turned to my son and said, “See Daniel! Look! The Blackhawks are winning and they’re playing the Capitals! See, just like Daddy and I told you, anything can happen. Your team has just as good of a chance as winning as the other team, even if they’ve beat you before!” I thought, this is just the pep-talk he needs to go out there and give it his all. But my dear boy had another thought. He said to me, very matter of factly, “Yeah, but it doesn’t really matter if we win. All that matters is that I have fun and try my best.” Oh. My. Word. To say my heart was bursting with pride would be an understatement. My little 8 year old son was reminding me about what was important. Things that his father and I have said to him and his sisters hundreds of times! He not only knew what to say, but he truly believed it.

I’d like to say my son’s team won their game today. They didn’t. But they played their heart’s out, and made the other team work for the win. It was a very close, very exciting game and that little 8 year old left it all on the rink. And at the end when the two teams lined up to shake hands, he was beaming with joy, just as if he had won.

Thank you God for these moments. And for trusting me and my husband to get it right, at least some of the time.

Romans 8:38-39