50 Years Together

I missed the big Smith Family reunion this summer. It's always dramatic and it's always a blast. This year is my grandparents' 50th wedding anniversary and we're all celebrating! My grandparents are awesome. We lived with them at their home for four years. Retrospectively, the whole experience helped shape my life. Although I couldn't be at the reunion, I did write a letter as a personal tribute. I want to remember them forever.

Grandma and Grandpa Smith
Moab, Utah 2009

June 25, 2009

Dear Grandma and Grandpa and family,

I hope you are all enjoying the warm weather, good food, and the pool without us! The summer just doesn’t feel the same without family. I miss you all and wish I were there to celebrate Grandma and Grandpa’s 50th wedding anniversary!

I think I’m a lucky girl. As a kid I not only knew my grandparents as sweet, overwhelming and spoiling as most any grandparent naturally is. No, I really got to know my grandparents; they became a second mother and father to me.

Grandpa was and always will be an example of learning. He has a life-long love for it and an incredible memory! I won every single weekly trivia question in the 3rd grade because of him. Grandpa knew the answer to everything: how they get lead into a pencil; why there are stripes in the toothpaste tube. I’ll never forget it. I got all the fun prizes and all the glory for Grandpa’s vast vat of knowledge.

Grandpa has the best voice for singing and storytelling. Sometimes my brother and sister and I could be quite rowdy around bedtime. Grandma would tell us she didn’t want to hear another “peep” out of us. Then we’d “peep” like little mice. “Peep, peep, peep!” What snots we were! She would stand guard in the doorway until we became bored and drifted off to sleep. But when Grandpa took his brave turn, he read an entire book (or at least half) in one night! Joe and I will never forget the book Little Rascal. It was our favorite. Grandpa was so much fun to listen to, with all the inflections in his voice. I think it’s a real talent. Grandpa also has a deep and beautiful voice. He sang the saddest songs in the most amazing way. (For instance, My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean)

Remember the time Grandma and Grandpa cleared out the storage closet in the basement to make a bedroom just for Joe? They put up gray sheet rock and hung blankets on the walls for warmth and to separate him from the rest of the food. It looked really funny, but it meant a lot to Joe to have his own privacy and for us girls to have one less body in our room.

Grandma and Grandpa let us kids take over—the backyard, the t.v., the basement, the kitchen, etc. Looking back, I realize what a sacrifice it must have been at times and how gracious they both are!

I learned about priesthood blessings for the sick from Grandpa. First the sick was anointed with consecrated oil and then given another blessing. Was that blessing for Joe or was it a type of family home evening? I can’t remember, but the feelings and things I learned about the priesthood that day left an impression.

I really enjoyed Sunday afternoons about once or twice a month when the Fotheringhams and other family would come over to celebrate birthdays! (Or whatever reason.) It was good just to be together; to talk, laugh, eat, and play outside. It’s a tradition I want to continue if and when Bron and I ever live near family again.

Speaking of food, Grandma’s kitchen was always packed to the brim with icecream, twix bars, granola bars, cookies, burritos, fruit, jam, salads, cheese, zucchini, and more! It’s impossible to starve at Grandma’s.

The kitchen and bathroom cupboards are also sure to contain Vaseline and Eucerin hand cream. Oh, and don’t forget the permanent markers and post-it notes. For as long as I can remember, Grandma has posted friendly reminders about various things throughout the house. I think my Mom might turn into her one day.

Grandma might not remember, but I remember when I was being a brat one evening and hit one of my siblings. I was throwing a fit because I was in trouble. Suddenly, Grandma had had enough of my ranting and slapped me across the face. I was stunned. I remember that she felt bad for hitting me after just reprimanding me for hitting. Kinda funny. But I’ll never forget feeling how much she really loved me or learning that we’re all human and we all make mistakes.

Christmas time is always the best time of year. Grandma, my mom, and I played our violins together. I learned how to decipher hand-written music! I love making music with my family. I really miss it. But even today when I visit Grandma we make some music. I play her violin while she plays the piano. We usually read the same songs: Ave Maria, Brahms Lullaby, and others. It means a lot to me, Grandma. I have fun every time. I only wish I could play the piano like you.

One December as a kid I was trying to be thoughtful by putting together a gift to send to my dad. Grandma noticed that I was about to send junk and some old toys. Thank goodness she straightened me out! She offered to help me pack more meaningful items. I think she saved the day.

Grandma was my “other mother” while my mom was gone at school all day. I would ask Grandma for permission to play with friends or to go places. The best part of having Grandma around was that she was willing to listen. I would sit on the counter and jabber away while she worked around the kitchen. But I always felt like she was really listening. Can you imagine listening to a ten or twelve year old girl's problems? Grandma must have had a lot of patience. It showed that she really cared. Even after we moved I was tempted to pick up the phone and call her often. But I didn’t want to bother her too much. I missed our conversations and her understanding! Sometimes when I’m at a loss and need another point of view, she’s just the person to call.

Grandma knows how to get things done. If she needed her kitchen swept she’d holler down to me in the family room, “Jessie, I’ve got something for you.” I’d walk upstairs and she’d hand me the broom. Hmm… I was expecting a good surprise! I plan on using this same technique with my own children someday.

The time Grandma cut her thumb off was my fault. I had a book project due that day. And of course, at the last minute, I needed my bookmarks cut. So Grandma hurried to the church library before school to cut them for me. In her haste she cut the top of her thumb right off! Well, the brave woman grabbed some paper towels, picked up her thumb, stuck it back on, finished cutting the bookmarks, swung by the house and took me to school. I didn’t have a clue about the accident until I arrived home that evening. Wow!

Grandma and Grandpa don’t have a dishwasher. And I don’t have one either here in New York. So I wash my dishes almost the exact same way as Grandma: I make sure to use really hot water for the utensils. Sometimes I get lucky and Bron will dry the dishes just like Grandpa does.

I really admire my grandparents. They’re busy, educated people involved in a cause trying to help other people. They are willing to give almost anything; whether it’s time or money or talent. I’ve learned a lot from them about drugs and addiction, family, forgiveness, and what really matters in life.

I have recently learned from a personal experience of my own that family is the ONLY thing that matters; people are the only things that last eternally. Everything else can slide out of focus. We are all here on earth to cry together, laugh together, and to lift each other up so that we can all return to live with our Heavenly Father…together. Grandma and Grandpa have seemed to have known this for a long time. I am very grateful to them for providing and planning family reunions. I have a blast every single time. And every single time I come away with a really good memory. I’m grateful I know who my aunts, uncles, and cousins are. I think we get along. And I love you all!

Thank you Grandma and Grandpa for being an example of someone I want to be someday. You have taught me more things than I can describe and have shown me what family is really all about. Your lives have made a big difference.

I hope to see you all again soon.

Love Always,


  1. sweet. what a good granddaughter you are!

  2. that was a really sweet letter, i love reminiscing! and i agree, family and family reunions are the greatest!

  3. Your mom read that letter out loud after dinner during the little tribute thing we did. Everyone was really touched by it. It brought tears to your mom's, grandma's, grandpa's, mine, and well just about everyone's eyes. I loved it. It brought back so many memories to me. We really are so lucky to have such awesome grandparents who are such great examples. I'm glad that they've kept our family close by having these family reunions. I love you cuz!

  4. On a completely different note, I've decided that Bron needs to work for the Blue Bell Ice Cream Company after he graduates. Their comercials say that their ice cream is the best, because it comes from the happiest cows in the country. What could be better than working with happy cows and then bringing home free ice cream at the end of the day?!


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