The things we leave behind

The things we leave behind

Lucia Zettler, Website Manager

My family crowded around a granite stone engraved with my grandmother’s name. A tall oak towered over us, it’s overhang shading us from the muggy Ohio heat. I listened to the soft buzz of my grandfather’s beehive as he spoke.

“Linda was a complicated woman,” Grandpa Zack spoke slowly and solemnly of my grandmother.

I picked at my cuticle nervously, shifting my feet.

Think about what you are going to say, I chided myself. But really it wasn’t difficult. As I listened to Grandpa Zack retell my grandmother’s life, dozens of memories replay in my head.

I remember looking at her as she sat in the living room of their Ohio cabin on their faded blue couch that smelled of moldy mothballs. An array of art supplies lay scattered on the kitchen table where I sat, frustrated by my inability to create art like hers. Where her strokes were careful and graceful, mine were sloppy and too thick.

My grandmother’s love for art was apparent in the various paintings scattered around the cabin and in the gift boxes that arrived at our house, usually full of art supplies. Despite my lack of talent, I always found a use for her paper and paints, creating amature pieces to show her. When she was sick, I used her paper to make a get well card, with the phrase ‘‘Don’t Stop Believin’’ painted onto it. The words were messy, and I no doubt used the paint incorrectly, but she kept it, turning my art into dozens of little cards. Later, she sent them to me, accompanied by a letter written in her elegant cursive.

More often than not, the art supplies were the only thing in those boxes that she ever actually bought. The other gifts were little things she found around the house. I imagined her and my grandfather parading around their house in West Virginia searching for things they thought my sister and I might like.

Opening her gifts was almost always an adventure, peeling back the tape of the shipping box to discover what peculiar items we would find. Sometimes she would put tiny old dolls in the boxes, their little dresses frayed and faded; or worn out puzzles with their backs peeling from years of use.

My grandmother died in November of 2020, and the boxes and art supplies stopped coming. In our basement, my family still has a drawer of thick paper and paint brushes from her, which usually stay untouched. Recently, I found a letter she sent me along with all the birthday cards she wrote me while cleaning out my junk drawers. While reading it, I recalled everything that my grandmother was.

She certainly wasn’t perfect, but she was a unique person who had a passion for her family and the world around her. Despite our arguments, and those times when I felt like she didn’t understand me one bit, I am endlessly grateful that she was a part of my life.