“With Love, from Grandma Bess,” Ensign, Jan. 1999, 60
Grandmothers can be pretty special people. Over the years my mother, Grandma Bess*, has romped and wrestled with my children while staying tolerant of their youthful energy. But I came to appreciate her ability as a grandmother more than ever as my children entered their teenage years.
One day I related to Grandma Bess some of the feelings I was experiencing about my eldest daughter, Courtney, who was 14 at the time. I had noticed obvious changes in my daughter’s attitude and a new belligerence toward family members that I’d never experienced before as she associated with friends that pulled her in unproductive directions. She no longer exhibited that gentle tolerance for the normal give-and-take of younger brothers and sisters that had been so much a part of her.
Suddenly I found myself viewing my daughter as a stranger. My husband and I spent many hours on our knees in her behalf. It was not an easy time for our family. Countless tears were shed as we dealt with periods of open rebellion. As I watched the contention tearing away at my once-happy home, I found myself feeling inadequate in my role as mother. One day, as I discussed these feelings with my own mother, I asked, “How can I help Courtney choose friends that will make her want to be the best she can be?” I found myself crying, but talking with my mother gave me a sense of relief.
Then, a week later, a package arrived for Courtney. It was from Grandma Bess. Inside was just a simple black binder. As I watched the expression on Courtney’s face, I knew that somehow this was going to be part of the solution to her problems. She turned back the cover of the binder and found a handwritten note inside from Grandma Bess. It read: “I am writing you a letter to explain this book. It will be sort of a scrapbook where I can share with you some of my thoughts and feelings. Since we live so far apart, I thought this is one way we can stay close to each other. From time to time I will write you little notes and send you stories or articles that I think might interest you. Because you walk in my shadow, I want you to know what is in my heart. I love you very much, and I hope you can share your life with me. Love, Grandma Bess.”
Within the binder’s divided sections, Grandma had included handouts from various lessons applicable to my daughter’s age-group. One was a story about friendship and why good friends must be chosen with the greatest of care. On the last page, this wonderful grandmother bore her testimony to my sweet daughter, urging her to remain close to the Church, to heed the counsel of its leaders, and to walk with her head held high.
The scrapbook was not an expensive gift, nor was it particularly beautiful, but it was a present that has played a very important role in Courtney’s life. While all the problems did not immediately disappear, some things have changed for the better: smiles have returned, exuberance has emerged, dark clouds have moved on. And because of a grandmother who lives many miles away, my daughter has discovered that the separation from those she considered her friends was really an act of love and self-respect.
Someday she will understand more fully the importance of such choices when her own children come into her life. And because I know this, I have already begun my own scrapbook so that when the time comes, I, too, can pass on the special love of a grandmother.