Our lives are overrun with strangers telling us how to succeed, who to love, what to buy, where to go and what to do. Yet each of us invariably encounters one or two people who truly influence us, shape us, give us the gift of being ourselves – and to whom we find ourselves giving frequent, albeit inner, thanks. 

Today, Krista Ewert writes about such a person: her grandmother, who not only cared for her as a child but taught her the beginnings of art. But we’d like to hear more from you, our readers. To whom do you give thanks for influencing you most? A parent? Sibling? Teacher? Stranger performing an act of uncompelled grace? Send us 300 to 400 words that you’d like to see published on Convivium.ca.

“We don’t make mistakes, just happy little accidents” – Bob Ross

Dear Grandma,

I am sure you are already aware of this, but some people think you are a grumpy old woman. They think that you tend to be a bit critical and callous at times but I think they simply misunderstand you. People often misunderstand me too and to be honest, I think I that am a lot like you… at least I hope I am. 

I didn’t really get to know you very well until I was six years old – just after my parents got divorced. My mom, brother, and I came to live with you and Grandpa – I bet you didn’t see that one coming. Just a few years prior, you had retired to your dream house on the beach. Then, suddenly, we came along: taking up your space, and causing havoc in your home. 

Instead of experiencing a peaceful silence after raising five children of your own, you had to endure the cacophony of my brother and I fighting constantly. Instead of restful, leisurely days, you and Grandpa had to help me with my piano practice, make sure my teeth were brushed and drive me to school, friends’ houses, ballet and softball practice and instead of quiet evenings you had two more mouths to feed and cranky children to put to bed. Retirement, for you, consisted of a second parenthood.

Despite your busy schedule and work as the volunteer manager of our community police station, you always seemed to find time to spend with me even if it was just doing the daily mundane. You let me be a part of whatever you doing and as a result, I learned to cook, garden and make a giant beaver parade-float out of chicken wire and paper maché. I’ll never forget our Sunday tea times, when family and friends would gather around the table. We’d dunk our cookies and talk about the hockey game from the night before or watch the windsurfers out on the bay.

You taught me so many things Grandma, and yet, there is one invaluable gift that you gave me – the gift of art. You loved to create and you fostered that love in me. You were always taking painting classes, or stained glass classes or watching Bob Ross, and you let me be a part of it all. When you painted, you let me paint with you. When you were working on your stained glass, you taught me how to tape my own pieces of colourful glass and use the soldering iron to fuse them together. You let me use your all the tools in your workshop from the band saw to the drill press. I remember sitting with you in the den as we both carved our creations and watched them take shape. My carving of a bufflehead duck still sits on my shelf, in front of one of your paintings, alongside some of your father’s and uncle’s book of poems.

The gift of art is something that will stay with me forever. It allows me to articulate those things, which words cannot, and to escape to my own sunset sky when the world becomes too much to bear. When I was six years old, in the midst of the chaos and brokenness you gave me a place to belong and this is still true today, especially when I feel misunderstood. So please know, Grandma, that whenever I pick up a paintbrush I think of you and am grateful. 

“Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.” – Thomas Merton


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