Thursday, August 06, 2009

the last gift

Please forgive the length of this post. It is a story that must be told and, hopefully, one worth reading.

My grandmother gave me many gifts. She gave me her big nose and wrinkly hands which I am not at all fond of. She also gave me my sense of tradition, my love for literature and my height, all of which I have found very useful.

It seems she saved the very best for last. Shortly before her death she gave me one of the most precious of all gifts I have ever received.

Reed and Vola Campbell, May 1945

One of the many, many shortcoming of my character is that I don't receive compliments lightly. I only take a compliment to heart if I believe it to be true. Say for example, someone were to compliment me on my bookcases. Now that's a compliment I can really get my soul around.

Shortly after moving into our house, Sugar Daddy humoured me and let me order, from New York, a set of Hale bookcases. They have leaded glass and are the very same book cases used by the Library of Congress for the last hundred years or so. They are wonderful and I treasure them.

Now, if a person were to tell me that I have a nice singing voice, well, I would have to make a note to self that that person was apt to use flattery to get in my good graces. It is a widely known fact that I sound like a deaf crow when I sing, not that it keeps me from doing so.

I know, because I have been told, that this is a very egocentric way of being, and I should change my ways. My opinion isn't the only one that matters in life. I'm working on it, but it is slow going.

One hot October day several years back, when I was in Utah visiting my parents, I decided to take a walk up the road to my Grandmother's house. I arrived wringing wet from the unseasonable heat. Sweat rolled down my back and my hair had sprung loose from my clips and hung in wet limp tendrils.

She meet me at the door. In the months to come she would loose the use of her legs and then her dignity, but on this day, she was up and spry. She hugged me close to her bony angular frame and it felt wonderful to be in her embrace. Then she held my face between her hands and said, "My beautiful, beautiful April."

I knew at the moment that it was true. Like most mothers and grandmothers, she truly believed that I was extraordinarily beautiful. Never mind my stout nose and deep set eyes. These were her genes and Campbell stock was steadfast and loyal and strong in spirit.

So I spent the afternoon with her, feeling beautiful, which was a unfamiliar notion for a girl with a big Campbell nose. And it was a gift that I will never forget.

One year later, almost to the day, she passed away. It is a loss that I have felt acutely.

There is a desk that had belonged to her father that my Grandmother had inherited. I loved this desk for all it's little individual drawers and it's heavy rolled top with a brass key to lock it shut. It is made of oak and I think it may have been a drafting table at one time.

My father, knowing I loved it, requested the desk be included in his inheritance and stored it in his garage until just last October when my brother brought it to me. It was covered in a thick layer of greasy dust and the metal joints were rusty and becoming useless. My father asked me several times if I really wanted it. It seemed in such disrepair. I had hoped that some of the photos and letters would still be in the drawers, but it had been cleaned out shortly after my grandmother passed, left bare.

As we were jostling the desk around to clean it and position it, we made a discovery. Secret drawers.

And what was inside? I know you are dying to know.

An old gas station receipt dated January 15, 1962, some three cent stamps that say "Win the War" and a two cent Jefferson stamp, some fountain pen tips, and a few of my great grandfathers tie tacks.

And then there was the last gift.

On that October afternoon three years ago, I sat on my grandmother's couch and talked about my desire to have another child. I cried a little, because there are somethings you can only hold in until you see your mother, or in this case, my grandmother. She listened intently, dabbing her upper lip with a Kleenex, as was her habit, and finally said that she was positive that God had great plans for me and my family. She had no doubts about it. And then she stroked my hair and patted my leg and we went into the kitchen to have some sugar-free diabetic cookies.

The last gift my grandmother gave me was hidden in the secret drawers of the rolled top desk. It was for the child that she knew would be coming to me. A little girl.

Around the time Amelie was conceived, I opened the drawers to find a gold baby ring and a tiny gold heart necklace.

The ring finally fits Amelie and I love to see it on her chubby little hand, although I am paranoid that she might suck it off and swallow it. The necklace will have to wait until she is old enough not to pull it off. For now, even though I am not a heart wearing kind of person, I will wear it around my neck.

Thanks, Grandma. Only you could find a way to send me a gift in this way.

Although Amelie will not inherit the Campbell nose, (thankfully), I will read to her from the best books and hopefully she will love literature like you and I. And I will continue to carry on the traditions that you started so that she will feel your presence in our life.

Love ya. Give Grandpa a kiss for me.


Jo Marks said...

that brought a tear to my eye april, such a moving story - and what a wonderful Grandma xx

Natalie* said...

beautiful - just beautiful.

Elizabeth said...

What a beautiful eulogy to your grandmother -- thank you for sharing that. And I feel certain that the ring was meant for your little baby girl all along.

Heather C Taylor said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jill said...

Yet another post that has brought me to tears. Here's a compliment I want you to take seriously ... You have SUCH an amazing way with words. Each story told draws me in and I can vividly picture what is being shared. Thank you for your inpiring thoughts! You are AMAZING ... AND I might add, quite lovely, especially because of your Campbell nose.

Love you!

Heather C Taylor said...

April that was beautiful. It brought tears to my eyes and reminds me of how much I miss her. I recently walked up the street to visit Grandma and Grandpas grave. My heart swelled and I sobbed, missing them and wishing Brad could have met them both. I often tell Brad I wish I were more like Grandma...she was one incredible woman. Thank you for sharing such a wonderful story.

Leslie said...

what an amazing post, thanks for sharing something so personal and beautiful. and your baby is the cutest. :)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing, I wish I could have met Grandma Campbell. BTW if your nose is big then mine is huge. I love your nose, and don't go thinking I'm just using flattery.

stephanie said...

so beautiful.

Julie said...

grandmothers are precious, as are you.

jojo said...

Oh April, that made me cry. You do look very much like your Grandma and you are both lovely. What a sweet little hand to wear such a lovely gift. It coudln't be more perfect. How happy she is, I am sure, to see you now with the baby that she knew would come to you.

Lesley said...

thank you for sharing your beautiful story - i am sitting at my desk with the happiest tears rolling down my face.

anne said...

Simply Beautiful. Thank you!

RYAN said...

Well written, April. Grandma would love it.


stacy di said...

that is the sweetest story...brought tears to my eyes. made my night.