Dear Sooby, Pooh, and Bootsie:
Something very important happened on this date in 1922. That was the day your great-grandma Florence was born. Grandma Florence would be 89 today if she were still here with us. I'm sure she would have loved to stick around long enough to know the three of you, but, since she couldn't, I would like to introduce her to you in this letter.
Your mama and your Uncle Tebo remember Grandma Florence very well. They sometimes spent the night at her house and did the same kind of fun things we do when you stay with me and Pa-pa. They remember that she could take a two-pound block of Velveeta, a jar of chopped pimentos, and a container of Miracle Whip and perform a miracle of her own on two pieces of bread. They will never forget the powdered-sugar strawberries and gumdrop cake at Christmas or the heaping platters of fried fresh crappie that she caught herself. In their minds forever will be the sunroom full of thriving green plants next to the old TV, where she would outscore everyone who dared to challenge her to Pac-Man or Donkey Kong on her old Atari.
They remember that she was as tough as a tiger on the outside, but inside she was as gentle as a kitten. Her voice was low and gruff and her words sometimes sharp and pointed, but when she spoke, the twinkle in her eyes and the way her lips would curl up at the edges softened both. By example, she taught us about courage and strength and loyalty. Those are big words for you guys, but let me show you what I mean.
Grandma Florence faced life's trials and heartbreaks with courage (like the Cowardly Lion got from the wizard) and grace. She cared for your great-grandpa at home the whole time he had a bad disease called Alzheimer's. Grown-ups who have Alzheimer's can't think very well anymore, and they forget lots of important things. Having this disease is kind of like turning into a baby again. When your great-grandpa turned into a baby again (even though he stayed a grown-up size), Grandma Florence was right there to take care of him. She fed him and gave him baths and helped him to stay clean and comfortable, just like Mama does for Baby Bootsie. She was loyal to him until the end.
Grandma Florence had to be strong at other times too. A long time ago, when she was even younger than your mama, she raised Pa-pa and two other kids all by herself while your great-grandpa was across the ocean fighting for our country in a war. When Pa-pa grew up, he had to fight in a war too, and Grandma worried about him a lot until he came home safe. When Pa-Pa's little sister died in a bad car wreck, it broke Grandma's heart, but her heart never changed color. It was always a heart of gold.
Grandma Florence's heart got sick and quit working a few years before you were born. That is why you won't be able to meet her in person during your life in this world. But if she were still here, I know she would love you just like Pa-pa and I do, so here is what we should do on this special day.
Sing "Happy Birthday," and sing it from your heart. Cover a cake with candles and then blow them all out. Close your eyes and make a wish that, as long as we live, we will be strong and brave and loyal for each other. Today is Grandma Florence's birthday, and we need to celebrate the gift that she gave to us all.