A few days ago, my mom gave me a stack of old journals and a mangled blue Bible to keep.
They belonged to my late Grandmother.
I affectionately called her "Mamaw".
Today, she turns 90. I haven't celebrated a birthday with her in 22 years.
I remember that last birthday. I had no idea it would be her last, although, I think she knew.
I spent part of that summer with her, in my birthplace, the fall before entering fifth grade.
I begged her to take me shopping for her big day. She even gave me spending money to spend on all of the randomness I chose. I carefully picked each item. I'm sure, to her, they were all highly treasured, yet entirely pointless.
I locked myself in her office for two hours wrapping her gifts as annoying as any ten year old possibly could.
I started with a tiny box, which I placed in a slightly bigger box, and, in which I placed several more boxes in nesting fashion until I had this massive moving box to present to her.
She led on like it was the most magical moment of her life. I beamed with pride at my cleverness. It took her forever to open. She cackled and laughed the whole time proclaiming how funny and silly I was.
I didnt realize then what a good sport she was.
I remember staying in the thick of my childhood ignorance as God slowly prepared my Mamaw for heaven. I had no idea that her "sickness" was permanent. I had no idea she was in pain. She never stopped smiling and moving when I was around. Now I can't help but feel badly for the ridiculous wrapping job I did.
Because we lived in Carolina and she was in Indiana, I didn't see her much while she was sick.
I felt like one moment I was watching her wipe the laughs from her eyes and the next I found her barely 80 lbs.glued to a metal framed bed. Shock and confusion came next. And when she passed, I didn't cry. I was too shocked to cry.
My heart has missed her all these years, but her existence always seemed like a daydream to me. Like it happened and didn't happen all at once. To me, she's always been gone.
But then, the stack of journals.
Its been a couple of years since I dove headfirst into a novel. It's been so long since I've found myself lost in another's words. I tell myself I don't have the time.
As an avid journal-keeper, myself, I felt my fingers itching to open the treasures I held. The treasures I didn't know existed.
My Grandmother loved to write.
She loved to write. Just like me.
Or maybe, it's more like: "I love to write. Just like her."
She wrote beautifully. I read every twist and twirl her pen made on the musky pages. I smiled. I ached. I cried. I laughed a couple of times, even.
I haven't been able to put them down. They mean everything to me. I'm sure my mother wants them back, but she may have to bribe me with brownies and some babysitting.
I feel like, for the first time since she passed, that I can grieve the loss of her. To understand the heart of my Grandma. To see her pain, her struggle, her commitment to God and His Glory. Her joys and deepest sorrows washed over me as I read. It was one of the most wonderful gifts.
Mamaw, on your birthday, I want you to know that I miss you. I fully 100% miss you. I miss what we had, but mostly, I miss what could've been. I miss that you missed so much. I miss that you missed seeing my children. I miss that we couldn't sit and write together. I miss that you couldn't rock my babies and sing "Bushel and a Peck". I miss that you missed seeing your only daughter being the best mom (because of you). And I miss that you weren't here for the times when she needed to cry on your shoulder, but had to settle for mine.
I'll pick up where you left off, Mamaw. I'll keep filling these pages up with the words that fill my soul. I'll keep sharing. I'll keep shining like you did, but I'll keep missing you with every turn of the page.
I know I won't have to miss you for long. Like you said in your last journal entry ever "I'll be seeing you around the corner, so smile...be happy...".
Love you. Love you.