Today was the family gathering to celebrate the life, and mourn the passing of my maternal Grandmother. She was an amazing woman, and I could tell you hundreds of stories, and the thousands of people who's lives she touched could tell you thousands more stories of how she was a beacon of creativity, love, and acceptance. I could tell these stories, but instead I just want to tell one. It is about what I found, today, by sheer happenstance.
The big, wonderful, artistic house was filled to the brim with family. Aunts, uncles, brothers, sisters, cousins, children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren, and even great-great-grandchildren. It was a hoard. I admit, we are a tall, handsome, witty, intelligent brood. A creative, artistic, eclectic, eccentric bunch of square pegs in round holes.
After a few hours of mingling, hugging, reminiscing, catching up, and laughing I was feeling a bit worn out. We introverts can only handle so much socializing before we must sneak away for solitude to recharge. I slipped away, up the stairs to the second floor that had been my Grandma's space. At one time it was her studio and gallery, as well as bedroom, and living space. The walls are hung with a dozen of her paintings, a small sample of her vast work. She was a prolific and talented painter. I had the place to myself.
Feeling almost sacrilegious, I sat in her chair and let the tension ebb away. I glanced down and saw the corner of her address book peeking out from beneath a box of tissue. I recognized this little book, the cover painted with a bold, colorful, graphic, abstract design. I remembered seeing this book at my Grandma's elbow for nearly as long as I could remember. It was so familiar, and yet I don't think I had ever touched it. I picked it up to get a closer look at the art she had painted on its cover. Several pages from a small notepad fell out. Pages with names and phone numbers, just as you might expect from an address book that was over 30 years old. I opened the book to replace the smaller pages. My eyes lit on the page covered with cursive writing:
"2/13-3/2 '87 I am on this thing called a vacation. The idea is to lay in the California sun and rest. Reality sets in. Traveled thousands of miles. Almost got in a snowstorm. 3 days of flooded streets and nightmare driving in Scottsdale Arizona. Saw some art and not such a beautiful landscape as seen in Arizona Hwys. I loved every minute of it--wouldn't change a thing."
The hairs on the back of my neck stood at attention. This was not an address book, it was a journal. My Grandma's journal, that no one, and I mean No One knew was a journal. All these years it had been in plain sight, kept close at hand, and none of us knew what it was. In reality, why should we know? A journal is a private thing. We were all better off thinking it was merely and address book.
I page through, reading excerpts. Some of it was reminisces of her childhood, of her father, of the Indians that visited them on their farm in Pocatello. Some of it was free flowing writing. Some was of her struggles to get her paintings into galleries, to get her name known as an artist. Some of it is so private that no one needs know, except maybe the women who are her descendants.
"$150,000 isn't hay. Who needs that much? Me! If I had it I could promote my paintings and get in some galleries. I'd hire Andy to be my bookkeeper and Randy to be my agent. Henry's Dark Private Reserve."
This was written in 1987. A time when I know her life was in some turmoil. Her kids were grown and gone, and she was striving to make a name for herself in the art world. It was a chaotic time for her. Someone suggested that there must be other journals. This one is small, and does not have many pages. I think that maybe this is a one off. One of a kind. Her one and only. Her writing to come to grips with all that was transpiring mentally, physically, professionally, emotionally. And it was in my hands.
I read excerpts aloud to some chosen few, and promised to transcribe it word for word and get copies to the few who should see it all. I am going to read it cover to cover. I think I stumbled onto a true treasure. A glimpse into the mind and heart of this amazing woman when she was on a vendetta to make the world sit up and take notice of her talent. This is one thing I will cherish.