Almost 30 years ago, I bought my maternal grandmother a cookbook for Christmas, a gift acquired from one of those holiday shopping events held in the library of my elementary school during school hours. Too young to drive to the mall to get your family presents? Then we're bringing lots of "#1 Mom" mugs and ugly frosted vases directly to YOU!
No matter how ghastly the gift, my grandmother always loved it. She was just that sort of person. But being an avid baker, she especially loved this cookbook, which was part of a PTA fundraiser. I wrote a special little message to her on the inside cover, wrapped it up and never thought much about it again.
In the early 1990s, my grandmother was diagnosed with breast cancer. It was caught very early and successfully treated. The following year, "Gran," as she was affectionately known, began exhibiting signs of Alzheimer's.
Unbeknownst to me, she continued to write me little messages on the inside of the cookbook, just below my original inscription. The last ones were penned when her mind was well into its slow descent. She had handily beat breast cancer, but it was Alzheimer's that would claim her life in a 12-year, one-sided battle. She passed away on New Year's Eve, 2005.
That cookbook has long since fallen apart, but I kept its front cover, tucked inside my recipes binder. Whenever I open that binder up, I'm forever reminded of my grandmother's generosity, her limitless love and how she struggled, but never lost her grace in the face of adversity.
Thank you for this lesson, Gran. I need it now, more than ever.