Letter to my Grandpa – The Kitchen Rag

Dear Grandpa,

I wanted to let you know I am coming home this summer… It’s been more than three years since I opened your wooden gate and sat on your old clay porch feeding chickens together. Much has changed since for both of us and I have yet to accept that.  I live so far away and somehow Moldova and our little village, has frozen in time during the time of my eighteens.

When mother came to visit last winter I gasped when she got off the plane. There were too many wrinkles I hadn’t kissed yet, there were worries and a deep sadness set in the corner of her mouth that she couldn’t hide. I didn’t ask and she didn’t say. Instead we opened a suitcase carrying aromas from my childhood kitchen- two homemade bottles of wine, bacon from the farm and homemade feta cheese…. The cheese wasn’t from your sheep. I knew it as soon as I let it melt in the back of my mouth. I told mother it was delicious and the sadness in the corner of her mouth quivered.

They didn’t know grandpa. They didn’t know that selling your flock of sheep would make you so sad.  All seven of your children thought you were too proud to admit that it was too much to take your flock to the fields and carry your ninety years. It was all done in the name of love. While they all thought you would finally rest after they sold your sheep to a farmer in the next village, you dragged the address out of grandma and every morning you woke up  and walked for an hour and half to see your sheep. You sat there next to the gate and talked to them before you turned around and walked home. None of us were able to keep any of the sheep and although you didn’t say, you wished we would have.

Both your father and mother in law, my great-grandparents I never met, were sent to Siberia in the gulag for having too much land and too much sheep. You couldn’t save the land but you saved a few sheep before they confiscated them. You kept a small flock during the Soviet Union and then grew it back once it wasn’t going to put your family into jeopardy. Your neighbors loved the cheese grandma made and aged in big wooden buckets. The wool, the cheese, the fresh lamb meat you sold was enough to pay the bills and give a little to your grown children when our economy crashed.

When they were gone you didn’t know what to do with yourself. You had a hard time helping grandma with her chores and show any interested in reading or gardening. Last time I was home and we sat down together you were even more quiet than usual and I chatted away more that usual. When grandma walked in the room you asked who I was and my heart sank. You remembered me later but I had already flown away… to land I now call home…


A few weeks before Christmas I had a dream about you. In my dream you were young, almost as young as mother, and although you looked different I somehow knew it was you… We sat next to each other and I was resting my hand affectionately on your shoulder. I was telling you about my life in the US. I was telling you Clayton is a good man. I was telling you I was trying to learn more about grace, mercy and light. I was telling you I missed home terribly and my heart ached after our little farm. You nodded quietly while I was speaking.  Aunt Liza came over and said:” Sweetie his mind is gone he can’t understand what you are saying or who who you are.” I looked back and you just winked at me and squeezed my hand. I winked back and as we started chuckling I woke up.

I woke up and the hard knot in my chest that has accompanied every thought or memory of you was gone. The guilt I had been dragging for the last two Christmases was gone and I felt your presence with me more than the last time I saw you. I wasn’t there two years ago when you decided it was time. They were all there besides me… You left so quickly in your sleep after a wonderful Christmas feast that by the time I found out it was too late. I am not sure how much I have accepted that you are gone. I was afraid to open you wooden gate and sit on the clay porch alone. But now I know you’ll be there. You’ve never left me…

Cu drag, ( with love)