Note: This beautiful love letter is written by Andrea Zimmerman to her late grandmother, and first ran on angiecat.com
Dear sweet, sweet, beautiful grandmother Bette,
By this point, I’m sure you’ve joyously reunited with Grandad, Aunt Dot, and Uncle John and you’re filling them in on the last few years over a few draft beers. ‘Atta girl. Have one for me and tell everyone I’m healthy and happy and started a blog, okay? (You can call it a journal if they’re confused, I won’t tell.)
As I was looking through photos of you – and my goodness, Grandad was a lucky guy, Grams! – I stumbled across a 20-minute video I had taken of you a few years back. You’re sitting in Grandad’s old baby blue La-Z-Boy, talking, oddly enough, about the value of your car (“Only 49,000 miles, mint-condition, and if one of you grandkids wants it, you’re going to have to pay me face value!”). You didn’t realize I had pressed record.
It was shocking, at first, to hear your voice streaming from my computer, knowing I’d never ever be able to hear you tell me that the ‘country is going to hell in a handbasket,’ when you asked me to explain things like Justin Bieber or sexting or the thong that sometimes crept up over my jeans. But as you continued talking, only pausing to ask me what that horrible smell was (it was my perfume, you hated it, typical blunt Bette) it suddenly seemed normal. Like I was just sitting across from you as you called out crossword clues (PSA: A crossword a day is the key to longevity, screw apples) and offered me Big Red chewing gum and expired Aldi’s brand diet soda. (Confession: I could never bear to tell you it was expired, so I always politely took a few sips, then hid the rest of the cans in my car to throw out on the way home. Forgive me.)
In the last conversation I had with you before you passed, I promised you I would keep your memory alive. Your voice was so weak – you had just woken up – but you responded, ‘I know you will, Andrea.’ So in that spirit, I hope you don’t mind that I’m sharing a few gems from our conversation. (Knowing how willing you were to dish out advice – solicited or not – I figured I’d have your blessing.) You truly were a woman ahead of your time.
ON NOT TALKING ABOUT “IT”:
Your grandfather shielded me from some things. I think he thought he was protecting me. When I would go with him to these cosmetic conferences – he worked in the cosmetic business – I can remember driving home and saying, ‘Hey Paul, you know that couple sitting at the bar? Do you know that they were gone for a good hour, hour and a half together?’ And Paul said, ‘Bette, just don’t pay attention to that.’ I said, ‘Well, how can you help but miss it?’ And he said: ‘I know, but we don’t talk about it.’ And I said: ‘We don’t? By God, something’s going on between those two!’ And he said, ‘Alright, Bette, I think there is too, and everybody else thinks there is, but we don’t talk about it.’ And I said, ‘Oh, I’m not even supposed to talk about it with you?’ And he said: ‘Well, of course, but I didn’t think you had noticed!’ And after that, I think he gave me more credit when it came to, you know, matters like that. I’m certainly not the dumbest woman to ever walk down the pike!
ON CHALLENGING GENDER STEREOTYPES:
One afternoon, Paul opened the door for his father with a dish towel in his hand and his father said, ‘Paul, that is not a man’s work. Put that dish towel down.’ And I stood there and I didn’t say mum, but when we came home, I said, ‘What did your dad tell you? That it’s not a man’s job to dry dishes?’’And Paul nodded. And then I said: ‘Well, well, well Mr. Zimmerman, here’s a rude awakening for you because I am not drying your dishes.’ But you have to realize, Andrea, it was a different time. Your grandfather was raised that work was a man’s job and anything having to do with the house was female. Well, not in my house.
When we went on our honeymoon in 1946 and got to our hotel in New York, Paul put his suitcase down and I said, ‘Aren’t you going to unpack?’ And he said, ‘My mother always did that for me.’ And I looked at him, in shock, and said: ‘Not anymore, Paul. You unpack your suitcase and I’ll unpack my suitcase.’ And when he opened his suitcase, would you believe, everything had tissue paper between it! I said, ‘Paul, did you pack that suitcase?’ And he said, ‘No, my mother packed it for me.’ And I said, ‘Remember when I told you I wouldn’t unpack your suitcase? Well, I’m certainly not going to pack your suitcase either! You know what clothes you want to wear and YOU pack them.’ And, Andrea, by golly, he did from that day on.
ON 50 SHADES OF GRAY:
When I see your grandfather in heaven, I’m going to talk to him because we never had that kind of sex! I think if Paul read that book, he’d think, Oh my gosh! I’m sure that men in that day didn’t spend 30 minutes wondering if we were pleased. In our day, it was strictly vanilla, wham-bam-thank you ma’am. The man had any right whenever he felt like it, whether she felt like it or not, and she would never deny him. Today, it’s much more equal and Andrea, let me tell you, that’s the way it should be. You make sure that husband of yours understands that.
ON THE KEY TO HAPPINESS:
Andrea, that’s one thing about me. I’ve always chosen to have a positive outlook. I didn’t have that many bad things happen to me but even if I did, I never chose to reflect on the bad things. I chose to remember the good things, and because of that, I’ve had a very good life.
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