I started writing to my granny when I was learning how to print. At first it was a thank you for my present type-letter, but then my mum told me if I wrote to Granny, she would write back.
The letters from Victoria to Ottawa started as simple one-pagers, double sided, and grew to sometimes 8 to 9 pages double sided, depending on what family member I was reporting on. When you have a lot of people in your life, things get lengthy.
The letters from Ottawa to Victoria varied in length from four pages, if Granny had a good golf game, had seen a good show or eaten a good meal, to shorter one-pagers double sided. Always in writing that was barely legible because it was proper handwriting – not the half printed half looped writing I resort to when pinched for time.
Alongside the enveloped letters, complimenting them really, Granny sent postcards as she and my Grandpop traveled the seven seas. Whether consciously tipping our hat to them or not, this tradition continues with my brothers and I – if we’re far from home, a postcard is sure to be sent.
When Granny’s hands became too arthritic to write, she started using PointerWare. A computer software system where she could speak into the computer and her voice would come out over an mp3 file.
Though it was weird to click on a link and hear her voice fill the room, and a loss not to see an envelope in the mailbox addressed to me in her cursive, slowly but surly, I warmed to this new way of communicating.
Naturally, I kept Canada Post in business by sending letters east: news with a side of chocolate.
I often wondered what, if anything, our girls made of hearing Granny’s voice. But as they chatted and drew her pictures of elephants, her favourite animal, and monkey’s, Miss S’s, I realized that hearing her voice was what made her tangible. Thanks to technology, Granny wasn’t a vague “Granny’s mum” or “Mum’s granny” who lived in Ottawa; she was a real person admiring what they’d sent and learning about their lives.
The comment she always made was “you all are so busy” but upon self-reflection stated that she did the same things for her own family once upon a time.
In late February, after reading about Miss Q’s love for all things owl, Granny recited, from memory, a poem she had learned as a small girl: The Owl and the Pussy Cat. She didn’t miss a stanza.
Two weeks ago Granny died. In what seems like a fitting final note, a birthday card she’d addressed with her own proper handwriting, arrived for my mum that very day. One final stamp to say she had been here and hadn’t forgotten. One final nod to something she enjoyed her entire life: staying connected.