My paternal grandmother passed away just after my 1st year in university. That was 6 months after my paternal grandfather passed away. 5 months after she moved in with my family. 4 months after her first heart attack.
A few weeks after her passing, my mother and I were cleaning out the main floor sitting room that we had converted into her bedroom. We were boxing up her things for my aunts to come pick up. As we packed, I was feeling kind of guilty because I couldn’t recall a single conversation I’d had with the woman. Aside from regular small talk and dinner pleasantries, I never really tried to talk to her. My anxiety had me hiding in my room from the influx of nurses that were in and out of the house while she lived with us.
My mom held up a navy blue, slightly tattered spiral ringed notepad and wondered out loud, “what’s this?”
She flipped it open to the first page and read aloud in my grandmother’s native Spanish, “I’ve lost my old notepad. I don’t know where it is.”
It sounded almost like a journal. I frowned, “That’s kind of sad. Did Abuela write that?”
“I guess…” my mom shrugged. She examined the pad more closely. She flipped it around, and with a warm smile showed me that the back and front of the notebook were identical. “I don’t think she lost her notepad. I think she opened it on the wrong side without realizing.”
We giggled sadly, thinking about how cute my grandmother had been. Even in her final days, when the diabetes had gotten the best of her and all she could do was sit and pray on her rosary, she had been such a kind and humble person.
I felt a surge of excitement realizing that I myself always wrote from my last page to the front page of my notebooks. I did it on purpose though, in case anyone ever found my journal, they’d think it was blank.
My mom flipped open the other side and read off the yellowed page, “I saw Fabian and the kids today. Tomorrow is Marcela’s birthday. I gave her $20.”
That sure sounded like my grandmother. She had 6 children, 14 grandchildren and an assortment of extended family, yet she never missed a birthday.
Then I frowned, “wait. I didn’t even know Abuela knew how to write.”
My mom shrugged, “me neither.”
I realized I didn’t know much about her at all. I knew she liked buying lottery tickets. When I was a kid, she would leave messages of the winning numbers on our answering machine every Sunday night. And she was lucky too. She often won small jackpots. I knew she liked Spanish soap operas, and that she liked having fresh flowers on the dining room table. She was religious and liked lighting candles in memory of my aunt that passed away. I also knew she absolutely hated ketchup.
It was a fair assumption to make that my 80 year old grandmother who was born and raised on a farm in rural Argentina wouldn’t know how to write. It was an amazing revelation that she seemingly kept it a secret for so long. That she apparently liked writing. That she felt the need to write things down. I feel the need to write things down. Most people I’ve met don’t share these sentiments.
Chills ran down my spine as I realized I was more like my grandmother than I’d ever thought. I felt connected to her. I suddenly felt like I knew her, and I was proud to be like her.