Today marks the 106th anniversary of my Gran’s birth. Usually, when I write about her, it’s how Gran was my Auntie Mame and I was her Patrick Dennis. 

But today I want to tell a simple story. An (almost) grandmotherly story.

It’s the story of a “cookbook” that Gran gave me in 1986, when I moved into my junior year apartment at UT-Austin. It was the first time I had ever lived on my own.

I say “cookbook” because:

  • There are only six recipes…and two of them are for dips (“Buy Knorr soup/dip mix. Easy recipes on the box.” That counts as a recipe, right?)
  • Also, Gran was not a good cook (aluded to by her self-deprecating inscription: May you be as good a cook as I!!”). Two recipes begin with “dump a can of” x, y or z to get things started.

But none of that matters to me.

Not today. Not in 1986. 

Because what this cookbook actually is.

Is a gesture of love.

From a woman who didn’t believe in outward displays of affection (you will note, as you look at this image that it is signed “Gran” and not “Love, Gran”).

Gran would never have told me directly that she was worried about me living on my own. Instead, she would have sat at her kitchen table and write out the recipes for the few things she did actually cook.

Because I was more than Gran’s Patrick Dennis.

I was her Willo.

Fast forward thirty-seven years and I am presently living on the road. My belongings are in a 10×10 storage unit and I travel with only the essentials that fit in a few suitcases.

One of those essentials is Gran’s cookbook.

It stays on the kitchen counter of whichever place I’m currently in.

I look at it almost every day. Hell, a few weeks ago, I even thought, “Oh why not?” and bought a box of Knorr soup/dip mix. Taking great care to follow the  “easy recipes on the box.”

Seeing it on the counter the other day, a friend said, “What a great memory.”

“Oh, it’s not a memory,” I said.

“It’s a reminder. A reminder that I was and still am very much loved.

By my Gran.” 

The Practice of Being Alive is a collection of stories about getting through this thing called life.