My Grandmother of the Heart

I don’t remember a time when Jo Ann Price Surls was not a part of my life. Her stern, no nonsense manner has always been a part of her charm to me. She has never treated me like a child (or any of my siblings, for that matter). Her expectation of great things made me want to do great things. I have never wanted to disappoint her.

Let me explain the part Jo Ann plays in my life.

When my dad was 8 years old, his mother passed away. Dad’s dad went to Port Arthur to work in the Texaco oil refineries. My dad is the youngest of 9 boys, was raised by a few of them for awhile, and then moved in the the Surls. Mr. Joe and Jo Ann were my dad’s constant. Growing up, we had three sets of grandparents; my mother’s parents, my dad’s dad and step mother, and the Surls. My childhood was rich with the love of these 6 people.

Jo Ann will tell you that the moment she realized that I really did belong to her was when she took me into the garden and I picked out a rose for her to cut for me.

But the rose wasn’t perfect.

So, I started peeling petals off to make it perfect. And Jo Ann just laughed at me.

It wasn’t until I reached my 20’s that Jo Ann and I really hit our stride and became more than just grandmother and granddaughter.

I go see her in Texas on my own now. We talk about once a week. She is a confidante.

Every conversation starts off with her asking how alllll the Garcias are. And she puts me off as long as possible on talking about her. We discuss the weather and what’s growing in our yards and gardens. Books always come up, what was the last good thing we read and what was the last not-so-good thing we read. We talk about my dad, “her Paul”. We talk about Randy. She tells stories about Mr. Joe and gives advice on marriage and kids and life in general.


And she is the Emily Post of Texas. She knows perfect etiquette for every situation.

I don’t know why it is, but everything about her is fascinating. From childhood to marriage to life and death, I am intrigued by all she says and does.

She always calls at the right time. Always says the right thing. Always sets my mind and heart at ease.

She is not mine by blood, but we belong to each other. It’s funny how hearts choose each other. And Jo Ann’s heart and mine have belong to each other since before I can remember. She’s my grandmother of the heart.