65: Grandma on the Block

65: Grandma on the Block

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Grieving and Recovery

Grandma on the Block

Anyone who says you can’t see a thought simply doesn’t know art.

~Wynetka Ann Reynolds

“Mrs. Woooolff!” I hear the cry as soon as I step outside. It comes from the three young sisters a few houses down. They pound up the street and stand in front of me, all smiles and news.

“I can ride my bike without falling!”

“I got a new backpack!”

“My favorite color is purple!”

I respond like any grandmother would: “How wonderful! Let me see! Purple is my favorite color, too!”

And it is appropriate that I do so. I have become an official Grandma on the Block for several kids. But for these girls I am more than that. I am like their substitute grandma. Their grandmother passed away last year after a long struggle with cancer and I was their Mom Mom’s dear friend. She and I knew each other for 30 years. We wrote books, took classes, and meditated together. We celebrated family joys and sorrows with each other. I met the girls when they were newborn and followed their progress as my friend shared their baby steps taken, beginning words spoken, new skills acquired.

When my friend died, her oldest granddaughter started knocking on my door. She would hand me a picture she drew and then leave. The first picture was of two stick figures standing side by side. They were females, one a little larger than the other, looking forward. There were no smiles, however, and other than a few sketchy wisps of hair and an inked line where a skirt might have been, no details.

My friend, this five-years-old’s adored grandmother, was an artist and always said that her granddaughter had the gene passed on to her. The picture I saw was a simple one, the kind any young child would produce as she was learning to draw. It was black and white and, given the circumstances, sad. I thanked her and put it on my refrigerator door.

“You can come see it any time you want,” I said.

She nodded, turned, and went back down the street.

The next week there was another knock and another drawing. Again there were the two figures, but this time they had hairstyles and a hint of a smile. I put it next to the first on the refrigerator. She seemed to like that.

Her sisters came with her the third time. They were too young to really understand the impact of their grandmother’s passing; they just wanted to see if I still had the pictures. I did. And then I had another. This time the figures were in full dress and seemed to be holding hands. I could see the artistic potential now that my friend had noticed.

The intervals between drawings lengthened but the knocks became more frequent. The girls came to visit my pet cockatiel Eloise. Sometimes one or another would come by just to say hello—and to check out the refrigerator door.

Over the course of the year there were more drawings. If I was out, I would find one slipped under the welcome mat, a corner peeking beyond the grassy edge. By the end of the year I had a handful of drawings on the door. I could see the progress of grief being worked out, one picture at a time. We never discussed her grandmother but the drawings showed her emotions.

In the last picture she gave me, the two figures were clothed and smiling. There were flowers all around and the sun was beaming at the top of the picture, its rays spread out in all directions. I think those drawings allowed me to deal with the grief I was feeling, too. As I watched my friend’s granddaughter grapple with her sadness I could empathize and work on my own. Being the grandma on the block helped both of us.

Today she came scooting up on her pink bike to tell me about her trip to Disneyland. It sounded like she had fun. I was glad.

~Ferida Wolff

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