Motherhood & Words

It was a year ago tomorrow that my grandpa, Spencer Nelson, died at 102 years old. It doesn’t seem possible that a year has already passed since we sat vigil by his bedside for those 6 days after he decided he was ready to die.

It was an intense year filled with work changes, family adjustments, deaths of friends and family, a book launch, two broken arms (little Zoe) and the daily joys and upheavals that go along with living. Through it all, I’ve missed my grandpa.

Whenever I go downstairs at my mom’s house, I feel my stomach drop as a walk into his apartment and see his chair empty. It’s the chair where he spent most of this time–reading and watching CSPAN or golf. And it still feels as if he should be there, looking up at me with a smile when I walk through the door.

I miss the way he would start a new story by saying, Oh!, as if he just remembered something important. (Which he always did, of course.) I miss his stories of old-time Granite Falls, of this golf match or that one. I miss the way he would tilt his head and cock an eyebrow when he was exasperated with me. I miss the way he said, “Oh, don’t you look pretty!” to my girls, which always made them smile. I miss making him lunch, sitting down on the love seat next to him and just talking. I miss the way he’d say, “Well, why not?” after I complimented his outfit.

I’m grateful that I had as much time with him as I did, and I hope I can take his optimism, good cheer (and his ability to talk to anyone, anywhere) into the future. He has made me a better person. So this weekend I’m going to raise my glass to Spencer and cheers to his amazing life. Join me.

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I have been teaching creative writing for almost twenty years. Reading about other women’s lives and experiences has expanded my world. To be able to walk in someone else’s shoes, whether it’s for a moment or an hour or a few days, is an incredible gift, providing me with insight into the human experience. It takes courage to write your truths, especially if it doesn’t seem as though anyone cares, as though anyone is listening. Let me tell you: your stories matter, I’m listening, and I’m here to help you find the heart of those truths, to get them down on the page, to craft them, and to send them out into the world. Together, we will change the world, one story at a time.


  1. Andria on July 12, 2012 at 11:00 pm

    I’ll be thinking of your grandpa too, and all the terrific stories you have told about him.

    • Kate on July 16, 2012 at 11:44 am

      Thank you, Andria!