Since my grandmother’s stroke and my grandfather’s bypass surgery, my mom and I have found ourselves spending a lot of time caregiving. This means more assistance, cleaning, running errands, and fixing things, but it also means extra time to sit down and talk, not only hearing stories of young love or pranks on friends, but also about our family itself.
While organizing boxes of old photos, we came across a picture of my great-grandma, my grandpa’s mother. I didn’t get to know my great-grandma that much as she lived far away and died of Alzheimer’s when I was young. I knew things about her, though. She was a housewife who loved books and had a library that would make any bookworm swoon. Her collection of books was diverse, from novels to comic books, and she had a great respect for education and the written word.
But I only knew her as a bookish, quiet woman who had nice handwriting. My only memory of her was her sitting quietly when we came to visit, struggling to remember who everyone was.
As we went through the pictures and other old items, my grandparents began to tell stories of the great-grandmother I barely knew. I learned she had short hair when she was young and wasn’t as flashy or flamboyant as her sister. She was very pretty as a young lady and had a confident, brave look about her. She also had a cool winter coat.
But as the conversation turned and we began to talk about her love for books, my grandparents revealed something that I had never heard of regarding my great-grandma.
She was a writer.
Apparently my great-grandma wrote short stories for children (mysteries and family stories mostly) and was working on a novel. She had never published, unfortunately, but loved to write and even sent out manuscript proposals to magazines. I was shocked to learn of this revelation. I come from a long line of blue collar workers…craftsmen. Aside from music, no one paid much attention to the arts.
This revelation about my great-grandmother’s secret life as a writer gave me a special connection with her, one that made me see her as more than just a woman who loved to read and take care of her family. She was a woman who followed her passion and tried to make her dream a reality, trying to go into a field that (at the time) didn’t see many women. She was a woman I wish I had the chance to get to know better, who undoubtedly would have been not only a great mentor but a great friend had Alzheimer’s not cut her life so short.
But even though she’s gone, I can’t help but feel she’s looking down from Heaven, smiling at the fact that one of her descendants picked up where she left off-that someone else is just as bookish, just as wordy as she was, who also wants to write. I never thought of writing as a biological trait (maybe it is or maybe it isn’t), but regardless I will always be proud of my great-grandma who was a writer.