I never really knew my father's mother. In my experience, you choose your friends, but family are people you know because they are around. I was raised by my mother, and was never really around my father's side of the family.
In a twist of fate, I ran into a cousin on the way to visit my mother's mother in the hospital. I found out my father's mother was in bad shape too, but mostly from old age. She was in her 80's. I ended up getting a chance to visit her in the hospital, when I would have had no way of knowing she was there. The 15 minutes I spent visiting her amounted to something like a 25% increase in the total time I had spent with her. She died a short time later.
At her funeral my cousin gave me a note in a thick envelope addressed to me. He said she had dictated it to me in her final days. I couldn't imagine someone who didn't know me, writing so much. I told him I was a little surprised by that. He told me she dictated many letters in her final days. It made me uncomfortable. Because we never got to know each other, this was a letter from a stranger. I held onto it, and never opened it.
Then about a year ago I lost some stuff. Nothing I was using, but I thought the letter might be one of those things. It wasn't, but it got me thinking. It's one thing to not open it "today". It's another to never open it at all. I told this to a friend, and he encouraged me to open it. The contents were quite a surprise.
First, the letter was very short. Just a couple of sentences tanking me for visiting her in the hospital. It was in fact, a letter to me. And the reason it was thick were photos. The photos of me that she owned. Mostly of the weeks following my birth.
I was quite wrong about it. I would say I was a fool to wait 12 years, but it really worked out for the best. It means much more today than it would have then.