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Darlene’s First Thoughts After She Discovered It

This boggles my mind. I cannot believe what I just found, a box with something very special in it, something very, very special. It is fitting that the box is shaped like a heart.

On a Flight Too Late

She was one of my grandmothers – the one I didn’t know. Betty lived on the other side of the country, the west coast, and rarely left work and home to visit family living on the east coast. She was a chemistry researcher attached to a university despite her being long past the usual sell-by-date of 65. I never read any of her writing, as I knew that it would be too complicated and foreign to me. I earned my degree in English Literature, teach at a community college, and have written one novel available on Amazon, but not in any bookstore that I have ever visited. And I definitely did not do well in chemistry at high school

I always intended to visit her, as a granddaughter should. It was one of those intentions that is never realized, ‘the best laid plans of weasels and women’, to quote a poem I wisely decided not to submit for publication during my first year of university. Now it is too late for any such visit. She died in May, and I am going to her ‘house on a hill’ as she called it to clear out her possessions.  I don’t know why she chose me in her will to do that other than maybe because I was her only granddaughter. Or why she willed the house to me. We only spoke a handful of times on those three occasions when she came east to visit us. Then there were the cards we sometimes remembered to send each other on birthdays and Christmas, and one I once sent her for Valentine’s Day when I was seven, and cherished the day. On an impulse, I signed it “From Darling Darlene,” which is what my mother used to call me when I had done something bad, misbehaved in some way.

A Flight of Fantasy

Now I am on a continent-crossing flight crossing too late to talk to her.  I guess I will have to be ruthless in what gets thrown out, and what gets given to charity. Maybe I will pick one object to ‘remember her by’, although I can’t imagine what that could be. I can’t even picture clearly in my mind what she looked like other than she was short with medium length, straight hair, just like me, only with more of a serious look upon her face than I could ever have.

The plane lands. As I enter the airport, the imagination that I use to write my short stories with conjured up an old woman running to meet and hug me, telling me that she made up the message of her death and the existence of her will so that I would finally come to visit her. No reader would believe that, and certainly no one would get a story published, which bore the burden of such an unlikely twist to it.

So no one was waiting for me at the station, except at the taxi stand. To my surprise there was a woman driver in the cab.. They must do things differently on the west coast. I’d never had a female taxi driver before. I’d even wondered once whether it was illegal for a woman to have such a job.

When I told her where we were going, she smiled and told me she had been there several times before. Apparently, she had on a number of occasions driven my grandmother to and from the university over the last year.  Betty didn’t want to drive anymore. Her vision hadn’t been what it was over the last few years. That must have been hard to take for such an independent person as my grandmother obviously was,

Arriving at the House

           I am a bit surprised by the ‘house on the hill’. It is much more a ‘log cabin in the bush.’ There waiting for me are the guys from the crew that I had hired to move stuff into the big trash bin that is almost as tall as the cabin or into their truck to take to the charity junk store that was mentioned in her will.  The ‘boys’ had picked up the key that was under the mat. You would think that a scientist would have thought of something a little more original than that.  By the creaking of the door when as they open it, having to body-check it to get it to move, I reckon that they had not entered the cabin before. They are honest, at least, despite some of the cheeky remarks about the place.  

They isn’t that much work for them to do. There is one dominant room that served as kitchen/living room/chemistry lab all in one, a bedroom and a bathroom with an old-fashioned bathtub in it.  I wish that I could have brought that home.  ‘Sparse’ is the word that came into my mind at first when we looked around the place.

           There isn’t much junk for the bin in ‘the big room’ as I call it, although it isn’t really all that big.  I open the door to the refrigerator, and I am not really surprised by the strange sight greets my eyes. There are more test tubes and glass jars with oddly coloured contents than there are containers of food. And in the state the contents were in, they could have passed as scientific experiments gone wrong.

           As we walk into the bedroom, I start to think of maybe obtaining a souvenir or two so from something in there, something small that I can take with me in the taxi and the plane back. But I can find nothing that ‘speaks to me’. The boys take the small one-person bed away mattress, sheets and blankets included. Standing vigil beside it is a small table equipped with a little drawer. I was going to tell them to take it too, when I realize that I haven’t yet checked the drawer for anything that I might want to keep.  It’s my last chance.

Inside the Drawer

Inside the drawer there is a hap-hazard collection of pens and pads of paper.  Maybe that was for writing scientific notes.  Underneath is a heart-shaped box, coloured cherry red. There is an envelope taped onto the top of it. Although no scientist, I am curious by nature, so I open it up. There is a card inside. Although it has been years since I last saw it, I recognize it at once. It is the one that I sent my grandmother when I was seven years old. Inside the box I discover several pages of a small pad of paper upon which is written the “For my granddaughter.” As I read it, standing up but wishing I could sit down, I find that she had written my life story from the information she had received second hand from my mother as well as from the few times we were together in the same room. Reading it brought tears to my eyes. At the end she wrote, “Darling Darlene, I have always been very proud of you. I wish I had visited you more often, or asked you to come visit me here in the house on the hill. Know that I always loved you.”

I didn’t know. I do now.


February 16, 2022 13:20

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