Today is my grandma Nonie’s 95th birthday. Unfortunately, I never had the opportunity to meet her. She passed away nearly 50 years ago; she was 45 years old. My dad was 7 years old. This post is in memory of her.
Although my family doesn’t know that much about grandma Nonie, my dad has been able to share a few pretty cool and heartwarming stories. She was passionate about photography. In the early 40s while promoting at local nightclubs, she would take pictures of the beautiful dancers and patrons. Apparently she was always in the darkroom developing her film. She and her family often took road trips to California to visit her sister. She worked as a lunch lady at my Dad’s elementary school while taking classes at the high school around the corner. Although her life ended much too soon, she had built a strong and beautiful family. I’m very proud of her.
In 2008, I was moving from Florida to Missouri. I was in the midst of a life-changing event; I was recently kicked off the University of Florida’s track team and transferring to the University of Missouri. My heart was broken and I was required to uncover resiliency that I didn’t know existed. I soon learned that I would have to tap into this resiliency again in 2014 and 2016. Each time my grandma Nonie seemed to be encouraging me to keep going.
Before my road trip to Missouri in 2008, I visited with a friend of a friend’s grandma; She was from Cuba and described herself as a very spiritual person. His grandma, via my friend’s translations, told me that my guardian angel was my grandma Nonie. She had never met me before and I had never told her about my grandma Nonie. But somehow in that moment she knew. Tears immediately filled my eyes. However, life went on and I soon forgot about this experience.
Then in 2014, I left Eugene for an opportunity to train at the Olympic Training Center in San Diego. I found myself in another life-altering event. When I first moved to California, I was far from family. I felt isolated like I was the only person on my journey. I eagerly reached out to my distant cousins, and the very next weekend I drove north to visit their home in Corona. After sharing a few laughs and smiles over a home-cooked meal, my cousins pulled out a box of keepsakes. In the box we found 16 hand-written letters from my grandma Nonie to my cousin’s mom, Pat (Nonie’s sister). As I read the letters I thought about how my grandma touched the very papers that I now hold in my hands. As my eyes lingered on her every word, I started to cry. I thought about how this is my grandma’s hand writing, how it is unique to her, and how her penmanship belongs to no one else. Each letter was signed, “love nonie.” I felt as if she was sending me her love, so much that I had a tattoo artist copy her signature and then tattoo it onto my side.
Writing has become a lost art. Although writing may take longer than talking or typing, it’s the time it takes for your thoughts to flow from your heart to your mind and then down to your fingertips onto these very pages where creativity flourishes. My grandma’s letters inspired me to start writing, again. My writing is unique to me. This is my journey documented by my penmanship (and typed in this blog for you to read).
We are not walking this earth alone. The connection I feel towards my grandma only seems to intensify when I’m going through moments of heartache. When I need her love the most. While I wish I didn’t have to feel hurt and pain, I also realize it’s a deep human experience. I trust my heart will rebuild. I trust my heart will heal. What makes us vulnerable also makes us beautiful.