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. 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.
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. And yet now I discover SHE wrote romance!
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.
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.