My grandmother turns 90 tomorrow.

As in ninety years.

As in almost exactly twice my age—which will be 45 in eight weeks unless I discover the fountain of youth between now and October 5th.

(Any hints about its locale will be kept between you, me and Ponce de Leon. Pinkie swear.)

My grandma Renis (which thankfully rhymes with “tennis”) was 45 when I was born.


It’s strange for me to consider that when she was my age, Renis Ann Anderson was a grandmother already. Even stranger still to think of her being—like me—a wife and mother. A sister, daughter, friend.


Because grandmas are homemade coffee cake and Shalimar perfume; a sweater over shoulders not yet chilly and bobby pins to keep the hair out of your eyes. They are soft skin and warm embraces; gentle compliments for even sub-par achievements. Enthusiastic claps for performances they’ve already witnessed countless times.

My grandmother is a competitive player of games, a fierce lover of her dog, a devoted wife of 71 years.

gma and gpa

She reads my blog posts and the comments (for better or worse); she thinks the oil paintings I created when I was ten are beautiful, that the words I’ve written in this lifetime are genius.

She sees only the best sides of me—by design.

Upon reflection, I think my grandmother is one of the few people on Earth who has been able to love me unconditionally—as I expect I will love my own grandchildren and great-grandchildren, should I be lucky enough to have them.

Someday. Not soon. In fact, I hope much later.

And yet.

I wonder now if they will look at me then and see who I really am:

A flawed person, whose attempts sometimes end in failure; a girl who has been at times selfish, mean, or deceptive; a woman who strives to be better in the face of her faltering, who still dares to dream and reach and hope and carry on.

I suppose they won’t.

In fact, we are probably meant to know some people only by their bright and shiny surfaces; their goodness and light. They are our examples, our role models; the ones we seek always to please and to make proud.

I’ve spent more than four decades being a daughter, grandchild, sister, friend. In the past two, I added wife and mother to the mix. Eventually I hope to be a grandma, as well. And spending time with my own grandmother inspires me to make this next half of my life better than the first.

To be better in every way—or at least the ways over which I have control.

I’ve known Reny Anderson my entire life but I’ve witnessed only a sliver of her whole self; her lows and highs, joys and sorrows; her losses, wins and ties. I’ve loved the bright and shiny surface that she’s shown her granddaughters and great grandchildren.

But I also know there’s more to her. And I accept that part, too. Just like she accepts me despite my imperfections.

I hope someday to be worthy of this unconditional love, which means the next forty-five years are going to be busy for us both.

So thank you, Grandma. For all that you are. For all that you’ve done.

And of course for all the coffee cake.

With much (much much much) love,

Julie Maria

Julie and Grandma

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Last Modified on June 25, 2019
This entry was posted in Life
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33 thoughts on “Ninety

  1. OpinionsToGo

    So, so sweet, and such a lovely tribute to your grandma, a lady who obviously knows how to do the whole grandma thing!

  2. Allison

    Beautiful Julie. I have missed reading your words. .. no pressure:)
    Karly and Jack are so lucky to have a great grandmother way into their lives. Mine lived until I was in my 20s and she is a great influence on me, as your grandmother has been on you.

  3. julie

    Thanks so much.

    I do love that last picture of her holding me – and I’m looking at her like “Hey, I’m three days old but I KNOW you.”

    Our whole family is lucky to have her.

  4. Sue

    What a loving and beautiful tribute to your grandma. This and the book announcement, whooohooo to you!

  5. karyn p.

    you did it again, julie…another beautifully written and heartfelt entry! my grandma turned 96 last month and i am so grateful to still have her around…we’re lucky ladies! 🙂

  6. Claudia Moon

    Oh Julie, your thoughts are so beautiful. I’ve always loved your wit and depth…..and just the simple fact that you are Diane’s daughter, but you continue to impress me with your ability to put your thoughts into the written word with such grace and sincerity. It’s nearly impossible to think of Renie, without smiling and feeling the love she exudes…..and you are definitely following in her footsteps. I’m so grateful and honored to be part of your amazing family.

  7. I love you, Renis!

    And you, Julie. But you knew that, already 🙂

    I don’t have any surviving grandparents, but some of my absolute favorite memories, in my life of 35 years, revolve around my father’s father. You are lucky, Julie, to have her in your life as you do . . . and, well, I think your grandmother probably feels just as lucky to have you.

  8. julie


    You already know you’re one of her favorites. And mine.

    And thanks to EVERYONE for the kind words here and on Facebook.
    You’re the best.

  9. LOVE this! But of course I love all your beautiful words. You are so lucky and blessed to still have your grandmother. But I know you know that.

    Such a beautiful tribute – you made me cry. (Damn why didn’t I choose the waterproof mascara today?)

    And like Allison, I’ve missed (missed missed) your words too. But you know, no pressure!

  10. NannyK

    Happy ALMOST birthday Grandma! Yes, Julie is an awesome writer, blah blah blah. And finder of adorable old photos (not one of which, in case nobody has noticed, includes your FAVORITE granddaughter…but who’s counting?) So yet again, as she attempts to woo you over to her side with beautiful, heartfelt, sentimental words….I shall be forced to RE-WOO you with what I do best (or stupendously, if you prefer). Expect me on your doorstep by 3pm…bearing your FAVORITE cookies and brownies. Because the way to everyone’s heart is actually sugar…No?

    Nice job Julie-Poolie. Love you AND Gma…today and always <3

  11. I hope to be worthy of such unconditional love, too. Your writing makes my heart heave with longing for my grandmother, taken too soon. I miss you, Julie. I’m so glad you bopped in today.

  12. julie


    I remember the post you wrote for your grandmother.
    It was simply beautiful and sticks with me to this day.


  13. Diane

    You never cease to make me stop and ponder life…grandmothers are also hard candies found at the bottom of the pocketbook! Beautiful writing as always Julie…Renis will be proud!

  14. julie

    Thanks, Di.

    And now I’m considering checking the bottom of my pocketbook for hard candies. Except I’d call it a purse. And I’m not sure where mine is.



  15. Oh, how I love this, Julie. My own grandmothers are gone, but I enjoy spending time with my husband’s, who turned 95 this year (she doesn’t look a day over 80). It fascinates me to see her with my children and I am indescribably happy that they get to know her and her love and wisdom. There is something about one of the oldest people in your family knowing you, the true you, without you having to say a word (let alone apologize).

    Happy near birthday, Grandma.

  16. julie

    Yes, A.

    Exactly this. Exactly.

  17. Jenn

    I normally do not comment after reading blogs but this is simply beautiful and brought me to tears. Especially considering I just left from spending 4 days with mine (who is 86). Awesome!!!

  18. What a wonderful tribute to your grandmother – and Happy Birthday to her!

    Now I must thank you for making me realize that I turn 46 in 9 weeks – October 11th. Ahem. Where in the world did the last year go? I was fine being 45. I’m not so sure about 46.

  19. So very bad at this from my phone and I am in England, but the words of this dear love letter needed to be answered because they are beautiful, and sweet and so very poignant … What a blessing each of you must be to the other. Love your words my very sweet friend xxx

  20. **Because grandmas are oatmeal cookies and Shalimar perfume**

    LOooooVE your words 🙂 Xx

  21. Coming here to your words makes me happy. Your grandmother is right that you are, indeed, an amazing writer 🙂 It’s an interesting thing to think of, the way we (hopefully) will one day be the loving surfaces and not the dings and dents and mistakes that it takes to get us to the point of unconditional care for those around us.

  22. You are indeed lucky to have this wonderful person in your life. Both of my grandmothers were taken too early in my life, one from lung cancer and one from Alzheimer’s. She sounds as sweet as oatmeal cookies. I hope you follow in her genetic footsteps because I plan on idolizing you for the next 45 as well! 🙂 xo

  23. Your grandma sounds a lot like mine. Every time I visit and talk to her, I learn something new. There’s so much I haven’t discovered about her. Happy birthday, Renis-rhymes-with-tennis!

  24. Courtney

    Thank you for this sweet reminder of how blessed we are to have and to enjoy our amazing grandparents. It would appear that your Gma has already located that fountain of youth — you might want a little more “one-on-one” time with her on your next visit — just sayin’! 😉 xoxo

  25. Randy

    As an example, a role model, and a grandma, you really can’t ask for more. You and Nancy and anyone lucky enough to know and learn from her are incredibly fortunate. Happy birthday Renis.

  26. This is beautiful. I don’t know that I can say more than that. Just beautiful. I’m in awe.

  27. Happy Birthday to your beautiful Grandmother.

    I’ve missed your words, and you, very much. xo

  28. Beautifully written, and you highlighted something I could only acknowledge subconsciously: In fact, we are probably meant to know some people only by their bright and shiny surfaces; their goodness and light. They are our examples, our role models; the ones we seek always to please and to make proud.

    I’m so happy your lovely grandmother still has her husband by her to celebrate.

  29. Julie I love your words. Your grandmother is beautiful. And 71 years of marriage? oof! awesome! This also brings up all the feelings about missing my own grandmother. So lovely.

  30. Cameron

    Always, Julie, beauty and sweetness and humor.

    So much love and food for thought.

  31. This was so beautiful, Julie. I like to think our grandparents (I had one that sounds like your grandmother) do know some of our flaws but consider it their job to pretend they don’t. 😉

  32. I finally got to go to church with my 93-year-old grandmother AND my own children when we were visiting back east this summer. It meant so much to her, and therefore to me, and I hope someday to my boys, who suspended their normal tomfoolery to comport themselves with grace and respect. Being with her makes me feel like a child again.

  33. Karen G

    What a lovely tribute, Julie. Happy Birthday, Renis!

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