90 years of love

Among the many things I got from my grandmother is my need and love for stories.

One day, as kids do, I complained (whined) one too many times that I was bored.

So, she took me downstairs, into the basement, and put me in front of her old typewriter she used to practice on for her secretary job.

She could have pulled me in the kitchen, made me help with laundry, or kick me outside to find something else to do.

Instead, this traditional strict Catholic Italian matriarch gave her one granddaughter the power of thought, of words, of imagination, of the kind of love that is slowly learned over the course of an entire lifetime.

There are few things in this world that are more permanent than us.

Things that stay.

Things that can stay for centuries.

Words and story are of the things that outlive us.

They’re inspired by places, deeds, questions, unions, and people.

It’s in large part because of my grandmother that I’m a writer.

She was a traveler and a picture-nut.

She had a crystal sharp memory for names and families and relationships and whose kid belonged to which cousin – well into her late 80s.

She could be sneaky.

She was a bigger bookworm than I may ever be (she averaged 10-12 audiobooks a week); even as a writer I find it difficult to carve out time to read.

Her laugh was infectious and loud.

She described herself as a wallflower when she was younger, but to awkward young me (who was actually a wallflower) she was a social butterfly.

She loved to talk – and took it personally when she wasn’t in the loop.

There were things, of course, that I could never tell her.

But when I think back on them… kids can be kind of obvious about the secrets they keep – so it was probably a moot point anyway.

There was never a time that she didn’t tell me she loved me – “very very very very much.”

The very’s multiplied the older she got.

I think it surprised her when I finally landed a full-time job in theatre – to be fair I jumped around quite a bit over a five-year period between different jobs and industries, right up to months before the pandemic.

“Are you still writing?”

Even with a full-time job, I don’t think I could ever stop for long.

And it’s because of the countless times I visited her with only a quick hello and an equally quick descent into the basement to type.

Because my mind was so full.

Because she gave me the space and the means to empty my head for a little while.

I could feel her every time she hid on the stairs (I hated it when someone watched over my shoulder – painting, writing, you name it).

If she ever got jealous of that dumb typewriter, I never knew.

But if nothing else, she was patient.

Because eventually I’d have to come upstairs for food.

I’ve learned, over the years, that even when you give a thought or a character or even a memory the time it needs on a page – those things only settle in your mind.

They never really leave.

They add to the floor beneath your feet that you crave.

When nothing feels certain.

When things inevitably do stop.

When you can’t see a path forward.

Stories, and all the things and people in and around them, grow with you.

When you have to move beyond the solid sidewalk of comfort and security.

Because stepping stones aren’t of the things you leave behind.

They’re meant to be reused.

They’re designed to handle the new and unknowable terrain.

Wherever you end up going.

Even when she was uncertain about the world around her, my grandmother’s love for her family was everything.

90 years is so long and full, and still somehow too short and with room for so much more.

Very very very very much more.

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