Happiness is a choice…

A few words before you read…this post assumes that you know about my father’s death. If you are new to my story, you can read about it herehere, and here.

Also, I have exceeded my word count with this story and it is truly sentimental. But it is mine and to cut words would be to cut meaning. I just couldn’t do it.

My grandparents stepped in to fill the void left by my father’s death and to offer me a sense of connection to him.

My grandfather, honorable, and upstanding, strong and true, was a leader in the community.

My grandmother, soft and loving, tender and compassionate, taught me to express my feelings, talk when something bothered me, and listen when someone confided in me.

There were no silences, no empty spaces where words should be.

They taught me that happiness was a choice, to see the sunshine and smell the flowers, to cherish my life.

They taught me that I could have more and be more than I ever dreamed.

I spent every weekend with them.  Looking back on that time now that I am a mother, I can’t fathom having Katie and Matthew gone every weekend, can’t imagine those days without them.

My mother let me go for their sake…to help ease their pain from the loss of my father.

My grandparents offered me routine…predictability.  They were constant and true.

Friday nights were for settling in and entertaining company. Friends or family came to play hands of Bridge and 31, but before they arrived, my grandparents played Spite and Malice with me, teaching me the joy of game play.

On Saturday nights, after supper, baked beans and homemade macaroni and cheese, we settled into the living room, where Lawrence Welk greeted us.  Once I made it through the boring polkas, I was rewarded with The Love Boat.

Hands were never idle in my grandparents’ home.  As we watched television, my grandmother taught me to knit and crochet, always giving me a task perfectly suited to making me feel both challenged and accomplished.

Before bed, I helped my grandmother roll her hair, then climbed into my bed, in my own room at their home, the sheets ice cold.  It’s such a funny thing now to think about.  How strange it is that something as simple as a properly made bed can make such a difference at the end of the day.  The ritual of peeling those covers back and feeling the crisp, cold linens, inviting you in for your warmth, is a truly magical thing.

Why didn’t I make my bed at home?  Why didn’t I realize that I could create that routine for myself?

I would lie in bed on those nights and imagine what it had been like to be my father, their child.  They  pushed, yet comforted him.  They had high standards, yet comforted and encouraged him after a failure.

Sunday mornings were lovely.  My grandfather, up before the sun, greeted us as we made our way to the kitchen to collect hugs and my grandmother’s steaming hot coffee.  We went back to her bathroom, where I helped remove her hair curlers and place those soft rollers and plastic picks back in their bag. She fluffed and comb her hair and spritz on her perfume.

We ate the same thing every week…thick, greasy bacon and eggs fried it the fresh bacon grease.  Biscuits and baked beans from the night before finished our meals.

We dressed for church and drove the short distance to take our seats in the very front, in a pew with a brass plate that bore my father’s name.  The bibles in our tiny little chapel, were donated by my grandparents in my father’s memory.

There was something about reaching for and holding one of those bibles that made me feel connected to my father.

These people knew him.  They knew my grandparents.  And it was one of the very few places that I can remember where I didn’t feel shame…shame of being the child whose father had been murdered.

There, I was accepted and encouraged.

I was hugged and kissed and told a million times over that I was my father’s child through and through, his spitting image.

The relationship that I shared with my grandparents couldn’t have existed if my father had lived…of that I am certain.

With the loss of my father came something so very beautiful and important.

I wouldn’t be me without them.

I welcome concrit on this piece…I feel like the structure should have been different somehow, but my mind just couldn’t pull it together. Every time I write about my grandparents, I’m swept away by my love and memories of them…it’s tough to see things with any perspective. Any suggestions?

This piece is linked up with The Red Dress Club. Our challenge this week was to find beauty in something ugly.



51 comments

  1. Yolanda blaggieplaggie.blogspot.com

    what is there to say at all? just a thank you for sharing these intimate thoughts. i am no gifted writer, so i don't have much feedback to offer. personally, the details say a thousand more words themselves. it is so difficult to find words to pin down memories so meaningful and cherished…i think you did a fabulous job of it.

  2. andygirl

    oh, Lovely, that was beautiful. how wonderful to have had such a place of comfort and routine after so much pain. you made me want to be there, to eat baked beans and macaroni and bacon alongside you. to make my bed and play board games. such simple joy which you communicated so simply yet so ripe with meaning.

  3. TheJackB thejackb.com

    I am processing what you said, it was beautiful. Grandparents offer something very special and meaningful to children. On a side note, you left out the 'c' in concrit.

  4. Miri lifeafterpush.com/

    I'm so glad you had this. What a sacrifice your mother made, not just in giving up the joy of your presence but also in staying alone in her grief, with you gone as well as your father it must have been so hard to get through those days so truly alone.

    In terms of structure, I think you did beautifully. You managed to bring out all the little bits that made up your experiences, in one flowing piece that carries the reder through. But I understand you. I think it is impossible to truly write a memoir. Our experiences are so much deeper and multifaceted than even the most beautiful arrangement of words can portray. We just have to do our best to get the strongest messages across… and I think you succeeded at that here.

  5. No I think this is lovely. Your memory of those weekends are very vivid.

  6. Megan-Best of Fates bestoffates.com

    I feel what you mean about the structure – usually your posts have a support to them, like words arranged up and down the bleachers (I have no idea why that's what I picture). And this post is different, not as solid, more like random words across the field. But it still has your heart and turn of phrase and spirit in it. So it's still beautiful.

  7. Sherri

    What a beautiful tribute to your grandparents, and I don't see where you could have left anything out. You brought in so many vivid images, and I especially love the cold sheets and how they made you feel. They truly did take something ugly and turn it around….but you did that for THEM as well, my friend.

  8. I clicked over from Twitter (I follow your husband there) and was blown away by this amazing, raw post. You carry me right there, with you, to your experience. I think is beautiful – do not change a thing.

  9. This is a lovely piece that makes me wish I knew my grandparents better before they were gone. I think attachment and closeness often comes with great tragedy. I don't think you need to have a balanced perspective about your grandparents. You loved them, they were there for you and no doubt you served the same purpose for them. Your memory is genuine and true.

  10. I have a similar experience of life at my grandparents' house. We played Triominos and ate soup beans and corn bread. I learned to quilt there. I have a recurring dream that I am walking through their pineboard house high on a bald in Appalachian mountains. Thank you for sharing your memories of your safe place–your home. You brought a warm feeling to my heart. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

  11. tracy sellabitmum.com

    Beautiful. Those special moments with grandparents are truly some of the most important memories we have as children. I need to let my children go more often to create them. My grandparents sheets were also very cold and crisp. You took me back… xoxo

  12. All Fooked Up allfookedup.com

    I didn't lose my parent bur I did grow up with a certain routin with my grandparents and I treasure that. Lovely post!

  13. I can't critique this, it's a flaw of mine, but I also can't see through the tears running down my face.
    This story, this telling was beautiful. In the ugliness of losing your dad you came to have the beauty of family in your life, to support, the reassurance. It made my skin shimmer with it.

    when you talked of the sheets, of playing cards , of spending that time with them I was transported to nights at my own grandmothers and I felt her love , saw her pink rollers, smelled her perfume. Thank you for that today, for the memory.

    this was splendid .

  14. I chose not to read about your father's death before I read this and in a way, I'm glad that I didn't, because when you announced the horrific way in which he was taken from you at the end, it really helped to juxtapose the beauty of your experiences with your grandparents with the ugliness of having someone so cherished ripped from your life. I don't blame you for not cutting words! This was a simple, moving piece and I am so grateful you shared. I know that it has been some time since your dad died, but time can't heal all wounds and I pray today that the comments from this will bring your daddy closer to you today!

  15. Jennifer Dillon

    This was a lovely ode to your grandparents and to the influence and comfort they were able to bring to your life when you needed it most. I thought the structure of moving through the weekend was strong. The only concrit I have is that I think you could drop this line: 'With the loss of my father came something so very beautiful and important.' in part because you showed us this already so well in the piece and because the line before it; 'The relationship that I shared with my grandparents couldn’t have existed if my father had lived…of that I am certain' is so strong.

  16. I see what you're saying – it feels a bit "loose." Yet the imagery is lovely and the sentiment is honest.

    You might find a phrase or an image that repeats and work it in. That might give it a bit of a bone structure.

    But lovely…lovely as always.

  17. I think it's perfect.
    I didn't want it to end.
    Not only was I taken with you into your story but pieces of my own childhood were brought back.
    The curlers specifically reminded me of my own moms curlers. I'd forgotten about them.
    This is wonderful.

  18. Pamela spermiestyle.com

    This was my first time reading about your father. I will go back in a bit to read the other posts to 'catch up'. I find no flaws in this piece whatsoever. I could smell the meals being dished out, I could feel the perfectly made bed beneath my body, I could envision the bible in your hands as you proudly reached for it. Flawless.

  19. Mrs. Jen B misadventuresofmrsb.com

    I didn't know about your father before reading this, and read it before I followed your links. So the realization of how he died knocked the wind out of me. I then followed the links. I have no words.

    This was beautifully constructed. You had me right there with you.

    I'm also thinking about my mom and the weekends she spent with her aunt and uncle at their house when her parents were fighting – there was a lot of volatility in the house and my aunt's was her place of solace.

    I'm glad that you were able to have those times with them – as you said, I'm sure you being there helped them immensely as well.

  20. tsonoda148

    Just a beautiful rendering of some very intimate and important parts of your life. Thank you so much for sharing. I love your writing!

  21. @amyplus1x3 twitter.com/amyplus1x3

    I had not read the previous post about your father. I read them before this and was blown away by each piece and how they all fit together. You are a wonderful writer and I would change a thing.

  22. SquashedMom

    This was just so lovely, Nichole. It is so full of feeling, that even though it is not my story, is yours, I have not the distance to concrit it, am too right in there, with you.

    As you know (from my post of that name), my experience in My Grandmother's House was… rather different from yours, polar opposite, you might say. I dreamed of grandparents like yours.

  23. KLZ taminginsanity.com

    I still miss playing spite or malice with my grandma. Although for years I was sure it was called spider malice. Really couldn't figure out what it had to do with spiders.

  24. beforethebabywakes

    I really loved the piece. A pulled at a place in me that longs to have grandparents like yours. Both sets of grandparents for me are completely dysfunctional and I have always yearned to have an extended family & a relationship like you just described. I think you did a great job.

  25. I don't think you should change the structure at all. The way you wrote it lets us feel it, in some small measure, the way that you do. Change the structure and you change the experience of reading it. Really, that's pretty profound: you wrote something that gave us an experience. Isn't that one measure of powerful writing?

    I think I need to go bawl into my pillow for a while. This and the other posts I've been reading are making me weepy. :-)

  26. This brought me to tears; memories of grandparents are some of my most precious. Thank you for sharing.

  27. So excellently put, it's hard when you have so many memories flooding your mind to just nail it down.
    But the imagery is so wonderful, "down home" is what my 1st thought was.
    And how lucky you were to have that special bond with your grandparents!

  28. angela tiaras-and-trucks.blogspot.com

    I love these memories, and (as usual) your writing brings me to tears. I agree that it doesn't flow in the same way that your other writing does. I think you could tighten it up by taking out the parts that take adult reflection, like wondering why you don't repeat the bedtime ritual at home or how you can't imagine letting M & K go for a whole weekend. I think that the memories of the specific actions are strong enough to hold this piece together on their own.

  29. This is a beautiful post and filled with emotion. I think the structure is perfect. Thank you for sharing the story!

  30. CDG

    What it lacks in formal structure, it makes up for in emotional impact. Perhaps now that you've written it, you can let is sit for a while, and come back to it with critical intent. It's beautiful and contemplative the way it is.

    Here's the one thing I'd change: "thick, greasy bacon and eggs fried it the fresh bacon grease."

    I think you meant "in."

  31. Grape

    I agree; I don't know if it's meant to be a structured piece. It's like an impressionist painting. It reminded me of going to church with MY grandparents when I was a kid. My mom would be standing right next to me, but people would still call me by her name.

    Thank you for bringing us this beautiful memory out of your ugly and untimely loss.

  32. Oh no girl…you're wrong. This is perfectly written….I was "there" the entire time. Actually so many similarities brought me back to weekends at my grandparents house….card games, crocheting and knitting, crisp cold sheets that always smelled the same, and that strong smell of coffee and grandparents in the morning. No. This was perfect…and honest….and sincere.

  33. Mandyland inmandyland.com

    You went over the word limit? Never noticed it.

    This post was so moving and touching and such a tribute to your grandparents. You gave each a gift, a precious gift. And that's beautiful.

    What a heartbreakingly beautiful post.

  34. Efloraross thewriterrevived.com

    It is beautiful, honest and heartfelt, as is all your writing. I did find the flow a little off. I think it could be b/c you have so many one sentence paragraphs. I know in my own writing, I use those sparingly, and when I do use them it is specifically to stop the reader and make her think about something. It interrupts the flow. I'm not being critical; this piece is lovely. But since you asked, that was the one issue I had with this piece.

  35. Mad Woman adiaryofamadwoman.com

    I think the structure speaks to your POV. Who doesn't return to their childlike selves when they think of their grandparents? Children don't speak in well developed, supported paragraphs. No, their words spill out of them, as yours did.
    Thank you for sharing this, Nicole. As always, you move me.

  36. C.Mom lacaramamma.com

    The love boat! That was my Saturday evening as well, always more special when I was with my grandparents…… I get goosebumps every time you talk about your childhood, your father, the love, the choice to be happy and to keep living.

  37. @The_BMG twitter.com/The_BMG

    Such nice memories after something so sad. It's so hard sometimes to know the good couldn't have happened without the bad. It would have been nice to miss out on the bad, but then you would have missed out on the good too. I like the way you used the prompt!

  38. You wrote this piece beautifully. I think the structure was great – and the love for your grandparents shone through in every word.

  39. Mandy tempestbeauty.com

    It was a memory, and the structure made it feel as such. It is so genuine, so honest – you put a little piece of you out there, and let everyone pick it up and look at it.

    It is beautiful. Thank you for sharing these memories with us. There truly IS beauty in the ugly history surrounding it.

    My only concrits are minor spelling/grammar errors that have probably already been pointed out. (I haven't read all of the other comments O_O) If you would like to know what they are, just let me know and I'll email you. <3

    MUCH love to you, Nichole! xox

  40. jessb27

    I love how you let all of us in to your life with your words. Just beautiful memories you have of beautiful people. I always watched the Love Boat with my grandparents too and then went to bed once Hawaii Five-O started, it just couldn't keep my interest.

    This was a little bit different than your other pieces but beautiful in its honesty all the same. Lovely work as always.

  41. Elaine misselaienouslife.com

    I'm so glad you had that time with them. I'm guessing that it helped you all to heal.

    And I did not know about your father. I do remember a post about how it was just you and your mother but I did not know he was murdered. I just spent some time catching up and I just want to say that I am SO, so sorry that he was taken from you and when you were just a little child. My heart goes out to you Nichole. Thank you for sharing it all with us…

  42. Galit Breen theselittlewaves.com/

    This was powerful, sweet and loving. You call it loose, I call it a tribute. Beautiful, as always.

  43. logyexpress

    Didn't seem long to me, just honest and beautiful. Hadn't read the other pieces about your father, so the end was a bit of a shock. I'm so sorry for your loss. But I'm glad you have been able to choose happiness. Such a fitting application of the prompt.

  44. Sara periwinklepapillon.com

    OK I love the description and imagery of the crisp sheets on the bed. So vivid and so true.
    The warm memories you have shared here about your grandparents are beautiful and reminds me of my own relationships that deepened due to tragedy. Thank you for sharing.

  45. Melissa confessionsofadrmom.com

    What a wonderful gift they gave to you…the gift of their love and consistency. I love that you have such beautiful memories of your time with them.

    I could feel the love and the gratitude. The beauty that came at a steep and ugly price.

    BTW, you made me want to make my children's bed every morning now…ummm…thanks? XO

  46. I have to agree with everyone else. While this may not feel like the proper structure for a "story", it totally fits what is told. Except for the small error CDG pointed out? I don't think I would change anything. Of course, if this is in your book, and the rest of the structure isn't like this, then perhaps it would be different. Here, now? It's perfect.

  47. ksluiter

    I have read all of your posts about your father and so this one? touched my heart.

    I am constantly amazed at the beauty of your words about something so very sad. And how you can find such loveliness in something so awful.

    I get that the structure feels loose, but I have no suggestions. I was completely swept away by the content. You have a tendency to do that to me.

  48. This is beautiful. I followed easily the time you spent with your grandparents. I love the images you created. The meals. The crisp linens. Soft rollers with plastic picks.
    Saw, tasted, smelled, felt and heard.

  49. Peggy

    This is beautiful. I didn't see this earlier, and i' m so glad that I stumbled on to it. This explains a lot…When you came home to ME for visits, you always spent a lot of time visiting your grandmother. Now I know why. It was your
    2nd home.

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  51. […] My grandmother. […]

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