Little Bits of Letting Go

Little Bits of Letting Go

From Chicken Soup for Every Mom's Soul

Little Bits of Letting Go

I sit at the picnic table on an early morning visit to my grandma’s farm. From here I can see most of her twenty acres, lowland pasture cut by the muddy waters of the Snohomish River, and the barn, red paint long since faded into rough wood siding. The wind rushes up from the river and sends me deep into the wool lining of my coat. It carries on its swirling back the sounds saved up from all the years: laughter of children running through the corn and Grandma’s chuckle as she accepts another fistful of field flowers. Her presence echoes across this land—but Grandma isn’t here. The heart of this farm is now in a “home” in town.

It has been four years since Grandma’s stroke, four years of visits to the home and quiet conversations while Oprah keeps the others company. The sudden grasp of illness, added to long years working her farm has used up Grandma’s legs. In the afternoon I find her in bed, propped up with pillows to keep the weight off her bottom. The cushion of her wheelchair aggravates a sore that won’t heal. She pulls her sweater around her shoulders and assures me, “I’m doing fine. Just have to lie down awhile.” I wipe a tear and make a comment about a darned summer cold.

Grandma’s family settled here more than eighty years ago. They made their first home on Mill Street, across the railroad tracks from a German family with two daughters about the same age as Grandma and her sister Margit. Gram tells me about Norma and Alice. “They were the first friends we met. We walked right past their house on our way to school.” Now Norma and Alice reside in the corner room, down the hall, two more old women confined to chairs with wide spoke wheels.

I imagine them climbing School House Hill together. Grandma in a plaid dropped-waist dress, black socks stretched to the hem, her thick, dark hair pulled back with a wide cloth bow. “One, two, buckle my shoe . . .” skipping songs in mixed notes fill the air as the girls swing their book straps.

Grandma sips her tea and talks about Grandpa. “We found a justice of the peace in Montesano, and that’s where we got married. We lived at Copalis by the ocean.”

I’ve got a postcard that Gram sent home to her folks. Old growth evergreens tower in the background. Two dogs are pictured by the new road to Pacific Beach; Grandpa was on the construction crew.

She looks at the collage of family pictures arranged on the nightstand. “He had a cold, so he told me to sleep upstairs.” There is loneliness in Grandma’s voice. “I should have stayed with him. That’s when he died.” Thirty-five years disappear in a sigh.

Grandma was a gardener. Rows of sweet corn and snap beans were harvested and preserved in clear Ball jars. Her peonies, like fancy ladies in ruffled bonnets, danced beneath the lilac hedge. In October, Grandma’s homemade ladder leaned into the apple trees that lined her driveway.

Peonies brighten the walk to my back door. Gram gave me a start one spring for my new home. “Plant them where they can stay, they don’t like to be transplanted.” Her back was straight as she dug around the tender shoots.

Grandma smoothes the satin edge of her blanket. “When I get home, you and your daughter will have to come, and we’ll sew a quilt. We can clear the dining-room table and spread out the layers. We’ll pin it with those nice, big safety pins you brought me.”

“I bought those at Sprouse.” Small talk seems to help my cold symptoms.

I hold my grandma’s warm hand, tracing the wrinkles that testify to her long life. I want to gather her up, go back to the farm, pick apples, pin quilts. But the yards of oxygen hose and the emergency call button around her neck ground me in reality. Gram is safe and comfortable. She squeezes my hand and smiles. My eyes are dry now. I know my tears are just little bits of letting go, as frame by frame, I recount our good times. My heart is full. I wear my grandma’s love like a golden locket, and I am rich. For I have loved her too.

Lynda Van Wyk

You are currently enjoying a preview of this book.

Sign up here to get a Chicken Soup for the Soul story emailed to you every day for free!

Please note: Our premium story access has been discontinued (see more info).

view counter

More stories from our partners