So, the journal on the dining room table.
August 14, 2012 I arrive home after dark (which takes commitment on an Idaho summer night) to my quiet house after a come-to-Jesus-about-obedience-and-writing dinner discussion with Julie. It’s a rare night two months and two days into living with G Mel that I come home to just a light on and a mostly closed door to her room; she is almost always up before me in the morning and waiting up for me in the evenings. She does not like being alone, but can’t stop encouraging me to scoot out the door to spend time with friends and enjoy life. By now, I have also been coached by my mother that if I thought G Mel was a doting grandmother my previous 42 years, I ain’t seen nothin’ yet. Living with me, she’ll want to do everything for me, including brush my teeth if I let her. Mom tells me to go outside and play with my friends. And, at this point, I am still running under my own lifelong impression of my treasured, inspiring G Mel being a go-getter, an easy friend-maker, and a brave so-and-so. My views are going to get a revision soon, but mid-August of 2012, though I inherited an emotionally fragile version of G Mel from a painful marriage, I am still hopeful that she will “get out there” soon and maybe hanging with my friends and not being home distracting her all the time will help her remember who she is.
On the drive home, I am mulling Julie’s words, rolling around in my head how much might have actually been inspired by Jesus and how much is just motivated by a nice friend who likes me and thinks a challenge is good for ya. By now, though, I know Julie well enough to know where that inspiration was initiated, but if I can somehow shift it to the “nice friend” camp, maybe I can scooch myself off the hook.
I enter through the laundry area into the kitchen. The light is on over the dining room table.
I don’t recognize this book, but it’s something that in my early twenties I would have thought looked sophisticated. My quick thought now is, “Huh. Kinda pretty, but isn’t me. That’s not mine. Is it? It’s not Grandma’s. I didn’t see it in her stuff …” I had helped her pack in a big ol’ hurry an hour after she called me to come get her, as she moved out of the guest room of her own home. I had toted to my car bags of everything from shampoo, tissue boxes, and a handful of clothing (her packing) to more clothes, medicine, and photo albums (my packing). I hadn’t seen this.
I open the cover to see Grandma’s name, in my handwriting, on the first page opposite the inside cover. I quickly close it, realizing it must be a journal I had given her, or maybe, based on the cover image, this is some plant identification book I gave her so long ago I just don’t recall. Trouble it, G Mel’s never been an enthusiastic plant identifier. Maybe I was a poor gift giver …
Not wanting to pry further, I head to bed. Her room is dark, and her quiet snores are coming through the slightly open door. I also know that I can now be as loud getting ready for bed as I want; hearing aids are out and I am in no jeopardy of disturbing the woman who, hearing aid-equipped, can’t hear me half the time I am right in front of her but has supersonic abilities when she is in her room and I am moving about anywhere in the house, drawing her to seek me out and be reassured that all is well.
We talk the next morning as I ready for work, but I make no mention of the book and neither does she. I come home that evening, book still on the table and G Mel in the kitchen ready to cook food the moment she hears the garage door open. We sit down for our meal, the book inches away from our plates and glasses. We talk of other things and I don’t ask about it, but since the journal is still there as we finish, I finally ask if it’s hers and if she is was writing.
“Ohhhh, no. I just put this here for you.”
“Grandma, didn’t I give it to? At least I think I did. Isn’t it a journal?”
“Well, yeah, Honey. But you know your old granny. I think you should have it.”
“Grandma, it was a gift. Don’t you want it? Didn’t you write in it?”
“Just a note to you.”
I reach out and take the book, opening the cover and flipping to the first cream-colored, lined page.
I cringe when I see it’s a poem. One of mine. I am not embarrassed for what it was when I gave it to her, which clearly must have been years ago, but my current poetry snootiness always winces a bit when I see my old stuff. Especially if I made it rhyme. Eeesh.
It’s cute, sweetly enumerating memory after memory of things unique to our grandmother / granddaughter / family stories and escapades. My loopy handwriting also professes the joy and love I have for her, that she is “my gift the whole year ’round”. It’s signed,
I love you,
It was a Christmas gift to her. I was 20 and she was traveling full-time. She and her then-husband (another story) had been on the road in a fifth-wheel for about two years and we saw them rarely. This was a strange thing after living just on the other side of the lake from them, only five minutes away, since I was eight years old. I missed her all the time.
Flipping to the back of that page I see a note from me, asking her to detail all she was seeing and experiencing, and admonishing, “don’t forget there is a family back home that’s missing you”.
The page across from this one is in her handwriting.
On this night, my words in this journal are from nearly 22 years ago. Hers are from the night before; she has written 8/14/12 at the top of the one page on which she ever wrote words in this gift. She wrote them while I was at dinner with Julie, having no idea about the conversation happening 11 miles away.
She writes that the book is a precious memory, but she was not blessed with “artistic writing skills”. Fortunately, her offspring “picked up that DNA”, and “with your writing talent–you could fill this book with ‘pixalating’ instances with Granny”.
Between Julie, Granny, and Jesus all in one night, it was hard to ignore that I better be doing something with words. I can’t scooch off the hook because Julie wasn’t just being nice. So I will keep writing to Jesus and putting it here, because he asked me to. Yay and ack.
Here’s to flexing my DNA, and capturing pixalating instances. :)