Beginner's Heart

Beginner's Heart

in praise of grandparents

granddad letter to homophobic daughterI LVE this letter from a grandfather to his gay-hating daughter. The idea that there is shame attached to gender makes me crazy. I can’t imagine disowning a child for anything, and something as fixed as gender identification?? If it ever came to not speaking to one of my sons — which seems impossible — it would be far more likely to be in a case of overt cruelty, like this mother.


Once, many years ago, race occupied a similarly fraught place in American culture. (Some of us would contend it still does, if a bit differently.) For a young white female to date a black boy was heresy — not to be condoned. Even in an international community, old prejudices lived and breathed.

But when my father had me formally deported as a result of my declared intention to marry my African-American boyfriend (deportation being necessary to prevent me returning, as I was 18), my grandmother — a Texan born & bred, from a time when that normally meant racial ‘attitudes’ — took me in and loved me.

She said nothing to reprimand me, and although my father had said I could never see my sisters or my mother again, my grandmother assured me that things would change. She held my shattered heart in her arthritic blue-veined hands and helped it heal. Such is the power of grandparent love. Emma


This letter reminds me that grandparents are necessary. No one questions that parents are critical. But as children grow and decide their own life choices, there is need for love that does not question. Love that accepts a child as s/he is, not as prejudices and hate might desire. I miss my old ladies: the grandmother who rocked a big 18-year-old girl in her lap and soothed her tears, the great-aunt who never asked a single question about my precipitous, unaccompanied return — just cooked me cobblers & creamed corn.

When I think of the best kinds of love, I think of grandparents. I remember what it is to be accepted w/out question. Just held and loved and loved some more. And I wish I was capable of it more often.

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