It’s in the blood

I’ve been out of town for awhile. My grandmother’s health was failing and I rushed home to Chicago in the hopes of seeing her one last time.

I missed her by twelve hours. Sigh.

She was 95. My perception was she had no undue regrets and nothing major — a few art projects aside — left undone. Her death was as kind, I think, as most of us could hope for, all things (and morphine) considered.Β She had a “strong voice” right to the end and lived a life that for me served as both inspiration and warning, which I think is a sign of a good and interesting life indeed.

I stayed in Chicago to help rehome/donate/toss the treasures and trash she left behind. I scored two huge cookie sheets, a really nice tack hammer, a lush red velvet dressing gown (missing the red tassels on one sleeve), and about fifteen pounds of silver hoop earrings and mismatched beads.

Mom Mom BDay Lunch

I know where I got my love of dessert.

Based solely on the above list, as you might imagine, my grandmother and I are/were very much alike.

More alike than even I knew.

While going through her papers, my dad found a sealed manila envelope. Inside were yellowed, typed pages wrapped in a crisper white sheet. The newer paper was dated August 2007 and said, “I feel the need to explain this…”

The typed pages were a story my grandmother had written in the 1930s before she was married and had submitted to Cosmopolitan magazine. The story was a romance.

And not just any romance. It was a romance with a raven-haired beauty. And a highwayman. And swooning!

My grandmother was always proud of me, but she never really read any of my published stories. She didn’t “get” them and often told me she wished I would write something she would like. Β And yet now I discover SHE wrote romance!

WWII love story

My grandfather wasn’t a highwayman but I think he was even more dashing in his WWII uniform. ETA I just realized: My grandfather was a civil engineer, so he WAS a highwayman! How awesome is that?

The funny?/strange?/sad? part is the date on the explanation. In 2007, I won the Rose City Romance Writers’ Golden Rose contest with the story that would become my first published novel. I was immersed in my writing world at the same time she was adding her secret explanation to those yellowed, typed pages.Β 

But she never told me about her story. I wonder why? I can imagine (she contributed some of her genetics to my imagination, after all) but I wish I could talk to her about that story. Especially because the last pages are missing! The highwayman (who has been shot) is expiring in the raven-haired beauty’s arms…

Maybe as he was bleeding out, that life blood was seeping across the years to embolden my heroes who will, trust me, live long and love AND enjoy a blatant sex scene or two even though I’ve been told by certain grandmothers that everyone knows how THAT is done so details aren’t necessary. Phshaw.

I know my grandmother’s blood is in me, and if she couldn’t share that story, well, maybe I’m doing it for her.

Love you, MomMom.

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17 thoughts on “It’s in the blood

  1. Sorry you didn’t get to say goodbye. It sounds like she lived a good life—and kept a few secrets right till the end. Too bad about the lost pages, but I love the idea that her characters live on in your writing.

  2. So, sorry you missed saying goodbye. I hope that other times you visited her in Chicago will stand for all the things that needed to be said. This post is a great tribute to your grandmother. How wonderful to learn she had the heart of a romance writer as well. Is it possible she penned the explanation in 2007 when she knew you won the Golden Rose? Is it possible that your “coming out” as a romance writer gave her the idea that people would not think less of her if she admitted to it as well? Is it possible she wanted especially you to find this story and let you know she really did understand the need to write, even if she disagreed about the sensuality level? So many possibilities. Perhaps all of the above or something even more extraordinary.

    Now, the question is what will you do with it? Include a character who is writing this story in the 1930’s and imagine how that story impacts her/her heirs in the future? Include a character in the future who finds this story? Add your ending to the story and make it available in her memory? Leave it as a find-your-own-ending to serve as a catalyst for you and others?

    No matter what, it is a gift. One that I am sure you will cherish along with your many memories of her. Peace to you and your family.

  3. I’m sorry to hear you missed seeing your grandmother one last time. She does sound a lot like you. How wonderful you found her story and learned a little more about her and what you are about.

  4. Thank you for sharing your experience with us. I always thought I was the only one in the family who read romance novels but it was time for me to clean out my grandma’s place and found her secret stash. πŸ™‚ It might be a generational thing…

    • Then I am very glad for 50 Shades which made EVERYone aware of the fun of “those books.” There can be no shame in the world after one has discussed BDSM with one’s grandparent. Eesh.

  5. She may not have understood WHAT you wrote, but she did understand WHY you wrote. You are a part of her legacy to this life.

  6. You can now do what she may have wanted to do, own those stories as having value and not tuck them away unread. That she saved this story for so many decades and never talked to you about it is her message and you may already know the answer, even if you don’t realize it or believe it.

  7. Your grandmother sounds like she was a beautiful lady, and I’m so sorry for your loss. My gran passed suddenly while I was stationed on the other side of the world; I tried to get leave to come home for her funeral but the military wouldn’t allow it, which broke my heart. One of my most treasured possessions is the letter she wrote to me right before she died — she mailed it the day before, and I didn’t receive it until a month later. But even then it helped so much.

  8. Oh, man. I’m sorry you missed her, Jessa. Still, how curious that she should leave those pages for you. Perhaps *you* were meant to write the ending? Kind of a collaboration of sorts between you and MomMom. πŸ™‚

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