Honey, I love you

Jen Bradbury
Apr 27 · 5 min read

The winter after Doug and I got engaged we went to his family’s house for his mom, Nancy’s, birthday, which was right before Christmas. While there, we visited Grandma Laura, who was still living in her apartment. Grandma fried chicken, which was one of her legendary meals. Afterwards, she handed out Christmas gifts. I have no idea what Doug received, but I can tell you exactly what I got: A pair of earrings, a frozen tray of homemade chicken enchiladas, and an ornament. Grandma leaned over and told me, “I got you what I got all my granddaughters.” In that moment, I felt like I belonged; like I was one of the Utter grandkids.

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For our wedding, Grandma gave us her silverware. She apologized for her gift, telling us it was nicer than what she could do otherwise and that maybe we’d put it to use in a way that she no longer would. Considering Grandma was known for making tasty food like fried chicken, enchiladas, merengue, and homemade noodles while I was the girl who—before Doug and I got married did not know how to cook at all—it felt like Grandma was entrusting the wrong grandkid with something that was important to her. I think maybe she saw my potential and knew that someday I’d find feeding people important and rewarding. Today, our table is often filled with people and every time we sit down for a meal together, we still use Grandma’s silverware.

When I made the decision to go into youth ministry shortly after graduating college with an electrical engineering degree, Grandma was one of the few people who made a point of asking how my ministry was going. She was—in so many ways—a woman who always bucked other people’s expectations. I think she saw (and respected) that same fire in me.

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One year, we descended on Grandpa Bob’s (her ex-husband’s) house for the 4th of July. The scene was sheer “Utter chaos” and I remember feeling distinctly out of place. The cousins buzzed around me and my introverted self struggled to fit in—especially as people started shooting off fireworks.

Grandma did what she always did. She found me in the crowd, sat down and started talking, once again making me feel like I belonged. We talked about everything.

At one point in the conversation, Grandma Laura asked when we were going to have kids. I looked her right in the eyes and said with a straight face, “We’re not going to. I’m not adding to this chaos.”

She roared.

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Years later, after a miscarriage and the arrival of Hope, she reminded me of that moment and we both laughed again. Shared jokes were Grandma’s love language and the fact that I had one with her reminded me I still belonged.

One of those shared jokes was that every grandkid was Grandma’s favorite.

Like so many jokes, this one was rooted in truth. Grandma made every grandkid feel like we really were her favorite.

As Grandma aged, pain and dementia made it harder and harder for her to socialize and to remember who was who. Yet, every time she saw us, she’d give us a hug and say, “Honey, I love you.”

We saw Grandma for the last time just before Christmas and she said the same thing once again. I’m confident she didn’t know who any of us were at that point. But I’m also confident that when she hugged me and said, “Honey, I love you,” she really did.

After all, I belonged.

I was her favorite.

Just like all of her kids, grandkids, and great grandkids.