I told myself to write this letter before now, but I thought I had more time (or at least I tricked myself into believing that). And sometimes it's hard to find all the right words at the right time. I'm not making excuses, just explaining myself and hoping you understand.
When I was three, we came to visit you in Oregon at Dot's house. For years I would bring up playing an organ in Oregon, and to this day I remember playing with the adding machine. I just loved the way the buttons clicked and the sounds it made while it printed out nonsensical figures. That's my first memory with you, but thankfully not the last.
I remember visiting you in Sun Prairie. In Wausau. All over Wisconsin. No matter where you lived, you had a room for me, and I remember picking toys to keep at your place so I'd always have something to do. Among the things I kept at your place was "The Giving Tree" - a book I liked at the time, but wouldn't grow to appreciate until I was older.
You traveled with us to Mississippi to see my uncle and cousins, and then Grandpa Chuck. I remember my parents explaining that you two loved each other very much, but you just couldn't be married. I was six, and while it didn't make sense at the time, I accepted it. You were an independent woman, and always encouraged me to be the same.
You confided in me more than once that you were afraid you hadn't been a good mother. And I know I always told you that of course you were. My dad loves you with all his heart, and you did an amazing job raising him on your own. But what I might have forgotten to say is that you were also an incredible grandmother. Were you always around? No. You moved a lot, and sometimes it would be a few years before I'd see you again. But I always knew you were out there, and if I had needed you, you would've been there for me.
You were always my biggest advocate. When I dropped out of college at 20, you told me that college wasn't for everyone! You insisted that I'd find my own path, and that I'd do great things. When I decided to go back to school, you told me how proud you were and that I could do whatever I set forth to do. And both times, you meant it. You weren't just pandering to me, telling me what I wanted to hear. You truly believed in me. When it felt like everyone else was disappointed or skeptical, you supported me. I probably never said so, but that meant more to me than just about anything else.
I have so many memories of you, and stories are flooding my mind so quickly I'm almost drowning in them. In a good way, though. They're warm and loving and beautiful. They feel like your hugs; a little too tight, as if you're holding on for fear of losing me, except I'm the one holding too tightly now. I want to settle into them, to find the comfort and support I always got from you. And I will. Just not right now. Right now, the only comfort I can find is that you've found peace.
Mom says you can breathe again. I hope she's right and that you're never tethered down again. You're too strong, too independent, too incredible to let anything keep you down.
I love you so very much.
P.S. Tell whoever's in charge they need to stock up on ice cream for you. Butter pecan. Cones, too.