Grandma died last Wednesday. It’s Friday, and I still haven’t changed the black dress I wore to the funeral. I probably smell like a homeless person—even my dog, Kipper, won’t snuggle with me. Staring at the coffin, seeing her dead body, pulled at something in my heart’s depth. Grandma used to tell me—she’d say—Hannah, whatever you do, never let them see you sweat. I didn’t know what she meant then, but I do now. I couldn’t get myself to move forward with my thoughts stuck on her baking me cookies as a child or telling me I looked beautiful on my first date. She sprayed Polo on my neck, hoping it’d drawn him in, but told me to reject any kiss on the first date. Make him want you, she’d say. Make him need you.
I took her advice and shoved it in my back pocket. I still haven’t gotten married yet. Maybe I took Grandma’s advice a little too literal. But I couldn’t settle for Sam. He asked me to marry him three weeks ago today. I told him I’d have to think about it. His pale skin turned cherry red. And you may think that’s horrible of me to leave the guy hanging, but I didn’t want to settle as Grandma did. Don’t get me wrong; Granddad was a good man. He took care of his family and lived life to the fullest, but even that couldn’t make someone fall in love. After Papa, I called him, died; she exchanged her long dresses for skinny jeans with stilettos. She dyed her hair jet black with blonde highlights. It was a little late for a midlife crisis, but we had more fun than I’d had with my closest friends. Grandma smoked pot with me on the back porch. We’d talk about God and life and nothing at all.
And now she’s gone. I cough as I make my way up the attic stairs. The dust and cobwebs told me no one had been here in a while. I saw the rocking chair Grandma used to sit in before Papa died. Papa felt older than he was, and he wanted Grandma to feel the same. Grandma was young at heart, and she’s not one to bite her tongue, usually. Papa used to tell my mother how she should dress conservatively because her body was his to look at and his alone. Before she married Papa, she’d never let a man talk to her like this. She’d never let a guy tell her what to wear.
I swooped to open a box, and I noticed a dusty journal. I turned my head to cough. Then I returned my eyes to the journal. I brushed my hand across the journal. What is this? Grandma wasn’t a writer, or was she? I sat in the rocking chair and placed my reading glasses on the edge of my nose.
I opened the journal, flipping through the pages before reading it—short stories and poems about her life.
(© 2021 AC)