Food, Conversation, Gardening, and Pepsi: A Love Letter for Grandma

Dahlia and Diamond Frost

A Love Letter by Erin Burton

September 14, 2017

She was tall (about 5’9″), thin, and always active. She loved going on walks, gardening, and picking wild berries. Her hair was always perfectly curled, her clothes always pressed with the most perfect creases, and her socks were always bright white (this still baffles me). But, the first thing that comes to mind when I think of my grandma was the way she was always smiling, her cheeks always pink, and the warm hugs that flowed freely. Grandma was quite the woman.

The Comfort Food

Growing up, I spent many weekends with my grandma. I loved sleeping over at her house and spending one-on-one time with her. Grandma would have one of her famous desserts waiting for my parents and me when I was dropped off. Seven-layer bars, red-velvet cake, warm peanut-butter cookies, or some other perfectly prepared dessert filled our tummies as soon as we arrived.

In the evening, I loved to help grandma cook. She was a great cook, and so patient with me when I ‘helped’ around the kitchen. In the morning, I would awake to the smell of breakfast cooking. Pancakes with frozen wild blueberries that she had picked up in the Canadian wilderness were always my breakfast favorite. Designs or funny faces made with the blueberries would delight me as she slid the warm plate of pancakes on the table. Grandma would have cooking shows on in the kitchen while she cooked, and I’d sit and watch. I most certainly didn’t watch cooking shows at home, but for some reason, I loved this tradition at Grandma’s house.

Erin and Grandma at the cabin
Erin and Grandma swinging in a hammock at the cabin.

Our days were often filled with taking walks to Central Park on the railroad tracks. Once there, we would walk around the lake and I would play on the playground. On certain occasions, bands would be playing, so we would stop, listen, and sometimes dance. Grandma would drive me to the local drugstore where she would buy me my favorite shade of lipstick (even though I wasn’t allowed to wear make-up yet). I still remember the wonderful purple tone I once chose.

But, I think my favorite thing of all was sipping on one of Grandma’s delicious, homemade chocolate malts. They were the best and we always shared.

The Conversations

As I grew up, Grandma remained one of my very best friends. I talked to her about things that I never talked to anyone else about. She was the best listener, always caring, and always supportive. My grandparents owned the family cabin when I was growing up, and my family spent many summer weekends with them. Grandma went from rocking me in the hammock when I was little to taking long walks with me through the woods where our conversations ran deep. We spent many hours on the cabin deck overlooking the lake while we drank Pepsi (it was always Pepsi), talked about life, and laughed over many card games of Canasta. There was also a garden center near the cabin where we went to pick out annuals (flowers) to provide pops of color in her gardens and pots every spring. I spent many hours helping her plant annuals in her gardens, and weed throughout the summer. As you can imagine, our conversations continued.

Riding with Grandma
Erin drives her grandparents 4-wheeler with Grandma peeking over her shoulder.

I can hear her voice repeating the two phrases she always said to me: “You done good, kid;” and, “You are perfect just the way you are.” These were always followed by one of her hugs. I can just see her red cheeks and sweet smile as I’m hearing her words in my head. Gosh I miss her.

There is one thing that made Grandma remarkable, exceptional, and one-of-a-kind: Grandma never said a negative word about anyone else for as long as I knew her. Never! She was always positive. Can you imagine?

The Final Chapter of a Life Well Lived

In the spring of 2006 Grandma had a stroke. I remember feeling like someone had punched me in the stomach when my mother called me crying with the news. I couldn’t breath, I couldn’t cry (yet), and I was scared to go and see her in the hospital. We still aren’t sure why she had the stroke, but we suspect that it was caused by a fall she had had just two days earlier. As she was stepping into her beloved garden, she had tripped over the rabbit fence, and hit her head on a rock that was lining the stone path through the garden. The family and I spent many hours, day and night, in the hospital by her side–running to her bedside whenever her eyes would open.

Celebrating with a Pepsi
Erin and Grandma celebrating with a Pepsi after Grandma passed her swallow test following her stroke.

Grandma ended up living for seven years following her stroke, though she wasn’t herself, as the stroke had affected her physical and mental abilities. Grandma didn’t understand her new limitations (needed help walking, using the bathroom, showering, and eating), and would often get angry when someone would try to help her or explain why she couldn’t do things such as garden, drive, or walk downstairs. Now it was the family’s turn to take care of her, just as she had done for all of us her entire life.

My grandfather cared for her in their home for several years, doing the cooking, cleaning, and laundry. Family members came to visit often, sitting to talk with Grandma and help with her physical therapy activities. Grandma could no longer garden, so every spring I brought annuals over and plant them just as she had done when we gardened together. I came to weed the gardens throughout the summer, and drink a Pepsi on the deck with Grandma and Grandpa afterward. The family brought Grandma to holiday celebrations, birthdays, and weekends at the cabin. She was and always will be an intrical part of the family.

The final years of Grandma’s life were spent in a wonderful home specifically built for memory care. There were only a few other ladies in the home that was situated just miles from my grandparent’s house. Grandma had many visitors, she loved her caretakers and roommates, and seemed more at peace. She had moments of clarity in the final years where she made comments like “I know why I’m here, and I’m okay with it.” She also began to talk more and more about wanting to see her parents, and wanting to go home. A home that we suspected meant to be with God, as her faith remained strong.

Grandma’s Legacy

On April 13, 2013, Grandma passed away peacefully and went to be with her Lord. We suspect that she’s having a very hot cup of coffee with her beloved parents that she missed so very much, or maybe she’s having a Pepsi while she gardens. Even though I miss her terribly, she left me with amazing memories and life lessons to pass on to my own children. I’m a gardener now, so I think of her often when I’m busy in the gardens; my children have mastered my grandma’s chocolate malt recipe and they think that no treat is better; and we often toast my grandma when we all drink a Pepsi on the cabin deck. A beautiful woman, a beautiful soul, a beautiful friend. Grandma’s love was happiness.

Grandma at a wedding.
Never a bad word about anyone, but a smile for all.


Your turn: What do you remember most about the times you spent with your grandparents?

Erin Burton loves the great outdoors. Follow her blog, Unbound Roots, for inspirational posts about farm, family, and getting outside. Or, find Erin on Twitter or Facebook.

If you’d like to write a Love Letter (and I hope you do). Check out the Guest Post Options.

Author: Angela Noel

Seeker and promoter of awesome people and ideas.

35 thoughts on “Food, Conversation, Gardening, and Pepsi: A Love Letter for Grandma”

  1. Dear Angela,

    Thank you so much for allowing me the opportunity to write a love letter about my grandmother. You have been such an inspiration to me, and to others.Thank you for all that you do. You most definitely spread love and happiness through your blog and writing. All my best, Erin

    1. You captured the very essence of all that a Love Letter should be about in your post and I absolutely love it. I’m so glad the little things I share have value for you. That means a lot to me–and know that I learn just as much from you!

  2. This was a beautiful and loving tribute to your grandmother, Erin. Just lovely. I know you miss her a lot. 🙂

    1. Thank you so very much for you kind words, Ward! She was a beautiful person, so it’s easy to write a beautiful story about her. I will miss her always – until we meet again. Thanks for taking the time to read and comment.:)

      1. You are quite welcome. I can appreciate your love for this obviously wonderful woman. Thank you. 🙂

    1. I’m so glad you enjoyed the love letter! All my memories of Grandma are definitely ‘warm’. They make me happy. Thanks so much for taking the time to read and comment, Ms. Elle!

  3. What a beautiful piece of writing. I’m sure you will treasure these memories forever. 🙂

    1. Thank you so very much! Grandma is one I will never forget, and yes, I will forever treasure the memories with her.

  4. Lovely post. I’d love to have had one of those Chocolate Malts. My grandmother passed a way a few years ago. I saw her a handful of times as an adult and remember her sharpness and wit just like my Dad.

    1. Thanks so much for your kind compliment. Her chocolate malts were the best. I’m happy this post has reminded you of your own special memories of your grandmother and father. Thanks for taking the time to share!

  5. What a beautiful letter. The food, company, thoughts and their presence made so much of a difference to our lives and like you, I was lucky to have a wonderful Nani (that’s Hindi for grandmother) 🙂
    Here is a post I wrote long ago – Check it out if you get time.

    1. Parul, thank you so much for your compliment, and yes, their presence was quite enough! I’m happy to hear that you had a wonderful Nani as well. I look forward to reading your story. 🙂

  6. Absolutely lovely. My grandparents had all passed away either before I was born or when I was very young. I can only remember my mom’s mom. When I knew her she had already succumbed to dementia. She was very quiet, but I always remember her stark white hair and her never being without a cardigan, preferably one with a flower embroidered on it.

    1. What a sweet memory you have. I wonder if your grandmother was a gardener at one time also. Dementia is a hard thing for young children to understand. My great-grandmother (the mother of the grandmother I wrote about) had Alzheimer’s. She always wanted me to sit on her lap, but I was scared because her talking and demeanor was so strange. My mother now tells me that my great-grandmother was soft-spoken, but always had a smile on her face. I now picture her to be very much like my grandmother was. Thanks for sharing your memory! 🙂

    1. Thank you so very much! I feel the same about your writing. I always look forward to reading about your adventures! 🙂

  7. This brought tears to my eyes. My grandmother was my best friend and biggest role-model throughout my life. We lost her almost two years ago and her last words to me were not to worry about her, that’d she be alright. I have way to many fond memories of her to post here but she was also my go to person. Growing up, I’d bring people to meet her first before my parents.

    1. I’m so glad you read Erin’s post and shared your thoughts. If you do want to write your own Love Letter about your grandmother, I’d love to read and publish it. Love always deserves sharing.

    2. Thank you so much for sharing your sweet memories. The loss is always there, but the memories seem to get sweeter with time. How lucky are we that we were fortunate to grow up with such special women? Thanks for taking the time to comment!

  8. This is so lovely. A wonderful tribute. I’ll admit to getting a bit teary at the end. Grandmothers really are very special. What a beautiful photo of her at the end too. Gorgeous post.

    1. Yes, grandmothers are very special. That final photo captured her smile just as it always was. Grandma would light up a room. Thanks so much for reading and taking the time to comment!

  9. This is such a lovely lovely post!
    It makes me miss your Grandma too! I love the sound of breakfasts with her that include wild blueberries!! You were so lucky to have such an amazing lady to inspire you.

    1. I sure was lucky! And, thank you for your kind post. 🙂 I’m going to have to take my kids up to Canada so they can experience the taste of wild blueberries. Other blueberries cannot compare. Thanks for reading!!!

  10. Beautiful, what wonderful memories and a great legacy to pass down to your own children. My grandparents gave me so much love and so many special memories. I would help my nan make cakes in the kitchen, as well as helping her peel the runner beans that my granddad had grown in the garden. I’d help her with the crossword puzzle – well, I’m not sure how helpful I was! She had a cupboard with lots of sweets/chocolate in and we’d always get a treat! Nothing quite like grandparents 🙂

    1. Grandparents are always good for some sweets, aren’t they? And yes, a great legacy to pass down to my own children. I love reading about your special memories. I’m sure your nan loved your help with crossword puzzles. Memories that were probably just as special to her. Now that you write about stringing beans, I was brought back to helping my grandma peel sweetcorn in the late summer. There wasn’t anything better than the fresh sweetcorn with melted butter on it. Thanks so much for reading, your kind comments, and for sharing your own special memories. Grandparents sure are special!

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