It was already winter in the mountains. My mother and I had driven to Virginia from Ohio, to see my grandmother before she died. She was in the hospital with a painful kind of cancer and it was probably the last chance we had to see her alive. My father, who adored her, had to work.
It was the only time I ever visited there in winter. It was cold and beautiful. It was good to see the place again, but felt strange. The woods were shades of snow, beige and white and blue shadows. The country roads seemed narrower and the fields were brown when they weren’t covered in snow.
The uncles and aunts and cousins were all there and made sure we were well fed. Home cooked dinners were large and often included homemade preserves, home canned vegetables, home made applesauce and so on. Some of what we ate had been canned by grandma the summer before, before cancer uprooted her from home and the school where she taught.
She was in the university hospital over in Charlottesville. We drove over there from home, over wintry roads.
We went in to see her. She seemed tiny, although remained a frail version of her Southern lady self (she was a much loved teacher, for 40 years, but always was in control, no students dared sass her).
I don’t recall exactly how old I was. Maybe fifteen. She asked what I wanted for Christmas.
This will probably sound stupid, but I said “What I want for Christmas is for you to get well.”
Okay, a nice sentiment for a grandkid to say. But this isn’t a story about that. This is a story about what came next.
After we got out of there, into the cold fresh air outside, my mother said “I’m so proud of you.”
I didn’t understand why at that moment. But when a parent says “I’m so proud of you!” it stays with you. Or rather, stayed with me.
More than any present I’ve ever gotten, that “I’m so proud of you” is deeply embedded in my memory.
Parents, if you are proud, say so. It’s a gift that will resonate for decades. Don’t say it just to say it, mean it. But if you mean it, say it.
Deep knowledge, and happy reading.
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