Friday, September 7, 2012

The Daily Keepsake

Friday night when you are 41 is the equivalent of Tuesday night when you are 21. The excitement quota tops out about 9 p.m. with the second load of laundry in the dryer which, unbeknownst to me, contains a liberated lego and proceeds to emanate a maniacal, albeit catchy beat that Kyser and I can do the toothpaste rap to. Sometimes things get really outta hand and I end a sentence with a prepostion. I know. It's the stuff that dreams are made of. (I did it again, oops...)
     Tonight is one such Friday night. Lazy, quiet, filled with the kind of mundane monotony that marks the normalcy I never thought I would enjoy. I was finally getting around to those things that get lost in the shuffle: going through my makeup only to find that I have purchased the same lipstick shade three times and have not opened any of them; sorting the junkmail from the junkier mail; watching reruns of "Friends" and wondering why they ever took it off the air... I had forgotten about a box that I acquired from my mother earlier this summer, so I set about going through it.
     There were picture albums full of memories that I didn't remember. There were pages and papers, letters and cards and at the bottom of the box was a collection of spiral notebooks. They were dated and they were titled "The Daily Keepsake." My grandmother's smooth, angular cursive writing marked the pages and I leafed through. The last five years of her life were in those notebooks. Every single day, she had written something.
     There was one day where all she wrote was "Jami called; her voice was a lie." I wondered what her perception of the truth in my voice would have prompted her to write. I wondered even more what had happened that day. She had not missed one single day. Everything from homemade veggie soup to Grandpa changing his shave lotion and smelling more like soap than medicine made her book. Several days she had written a short rhyme or had dissected a passage of scripture and brought out some nugget of wisdom I would have never sorted. But it wasn't the "stuff" that she found to keep each day; it was the fact that she had found SOMETHING to keep every single day. That kind of optimism doesn't show up very often in my life.
     But it was certainly going to from now on. I sat with the notebooks on my lap, ran my hands over the determined script and smiled and laughed. It had been 13 years since I had heard my grandmother's voice, but she couldn't have spoken any clearer to me if she had been sitting beside me screaming. This was Grandma's idea of an intervention. Gentle, prodding and followed by a swift kick in the butt if ignored. That was how Grandma did business.
     I don't know if there is a portal that allows the ones we lose before we are ready to follow along with our lives on earth. I don't know that I want there to be one. But if anything could ever persuade me of its existence, it would be Grandma's daily keepsakes.
     I had been, for about three months now, sinking into a sadness that I couldn't define. Days were melting together and becoming something to get through. Joy was a far-off light that I couldn't seem to warm myself under. I was going through the motions, but without emotions. Something told me Grandma had gotten to that point as well and that was when she started the daily keepsake. She was going to do the only thing that she knew how to do: she was going to find the best in all of it.
     Grandma was in her 70's when we lost her. I was only 41. How did she last 39 years before she began to have to fight the sadness? But it was then that I realized something very important about myself. As much as I would like to be just like her, I wouldn't ever be what she was. The daily keepsakes kept by my Grandma were her last resort. She was giving them to me as a first resort. She was giving them to me so that I didn't have to have a last resort.
     I sat in the middle of our game room with the notebooks surrounding me, going through them as quickly as I could, looking for my name. I was sprinkled throughout the pages, here and there, but not so much that I would get the big head, mind you. Mom was in there, John was in there, her sons were in there, too. Birds, snow, brownies and even a wooly worm made her list of daily keepsakes.
     But because it was Grandma, I considered it the opportunity to share a coveted place of honor with others fortunate enough to be one of Grandma's daily keepsakes.