When Grandma moved to a senior living community earlier this year, a box of the journals she kept for two and half decades made their way to me.
I wrote not long ago about sets of Grandma’s china and flatware that came my way, but these journals were the real treasures.
She wrote about the weather, her walks, visitors and especially good meals in her journals almost every day from 1985 to 2009 (I’m missing a few years, but I assume she was writing her thoughts in those years, too). This means she was recording her retirement years in her 70s, 80s and part of her 90s (she turned 100 in March). Very few of the entries I’ve read are very earth-shattering or particularly private (sound like any bloggers you know?), but the sheer volume of her records are impressive.
As I was inventory the cache, I looked up a few dates with particular importance to me. For instance, on the occasion of my first wedding, she wrote, “It was a very nice wedding and a very good dinner at Pine Cove” without mentioning either my name or the groom’s. It made me laugh. But understand, Grandma wasn’t writing these entries for anyone but herself. I can imagine they were helpful in reminding her the last time she visited the eye doctor or how she celebrated someone’s birthday the previous year.
Still, there are some insightful bits. Here’s what she wrote on Sept. 11, 2001:
Just when the van was ready to come, Jim [her son] came and told me a High Rise Bldg in New York was hit by 2 planes. The highjackers were piloting. It spoiled my whole day. I hate war. … All on TV was about the terrorists. Makes me nervous.
Grandma was 86 in 2001, so she’d seen more than her fair share of American conflicts and, more than a lot of people, could make a judgment about war.
In order to pinpoint some of the more valuable entries and to ask questions, I created a group on Facebook to share and discuss the entries with my aunts and cousins. I anticipate learning more about Grandma but also more about the rest of my extended family, which will be the ultimate gift of these diaries.