Dorothy Turney-Stacy uses the present tense to talk about her grandson, Adam Estep, who called her ``Mormor,'' Swedish for grandmother. The last time she saw him -- last Christmas -- they took a raft of photos. Adam towered over his fiancee, Demara. His grandmother cannot believe he's gone.
``The thing about Adam is that he's changed into such a wonderful young man,'' she says of the 23-year-old Army sergeant from Campbell who was killed last week in Iraq. ``I've known this kid from all the way back, and it was not an easy process.''
So when Turney-Stacy got the devastating news that Adam had been killed when a rocket-propelled grenade hit his vehicle, she couldn't stay quiet. She couldn't mourn without doing something.
The energetic 66-year-old Brentwood woman, who grew up on Delmas Avenue in San Jose, went to her computer and wrote a rambling but heartfelt 504-word letter of protest to President George W. Bush.
``Do you feel his death is justified?'' she asked the president. ``What are we liberating, Mr. Bush? . . . Did he die for liberty and justice for all? I think not, Mr. Bush.''
It was a grandmother's heartfelt grief, a keening at the perplexity of Iraq. And somehow it struck a chord. It voiced the disillusionment of one woman determined that kids -- her grandkids -- not be destroyed by a mission so hard to understand.
``I've never done that in my life,'' said Turney-Stacy. ``I was sitting home, thinking about it, and I thought, you know, this isn't right."
Given her family's military tradition, the protest was hardly automatic. Adam's grandfather was a Marine. His father and his uncle -- Turney-Stacy's twin sons -- served in the Army. And his first cousin, Christopher, is now with U.S. forces in Tikrit, Saddam Hussein's hometown.
For that matter, Turney-Stacy wasn't opposed to toppling Saddam. She says she believed America was protecting itself, saving a people who wanted saving.
As she saw the insurgency grow and U.S. losses mount, her views changed. ``These people have a history ingrained to them,'' she told me. ``We're offering them what we have, and guess what? They don't know what that means.''
She says she sent the e-mail precisely because she felt that so many young Americans Adam's age didn't firmly grasp the lethal difference between war and video games.
``He used to play blood and guts computer games, and I remember saying how horrible they were and how he shouldn't play them, and he would say, ``Awh, grandma, they are OK,' '' she wrote in the e-mail. ``Well, the game is over now and he lost.''
So she is turning to grandmother power: Turney-Stacy, a tax adviser and a retired employee of the Contra Costa County Office of Education, says she's gotten only a form answer from the White House. The president is too busy to read every e-mail. But she intends to circulate her missive among the grandmothers in her volunteer group.
``My God, think of these grandmothers who are sitting at home, watching the news, wanting the truth,'' she said. ``We're grandmas. We say what we think.''
© 2004 Mercury News and wire service sources.