It was my Granny Barbara who gave me my first notebook. And the second. And the around 50 that came after.
Each time I visited her cozy, shag-carpeted house, I would beg her for a new one. I never filled in all the pages, but I was enchanted by that opportunistic blankness of a brand new spiral.
It was my Granny Barbara who taught me about creation, sitting with me for hours while we crafted the perfect paper dolls. She laughed and smiled as I told her my dolls' names and gave them stories and adventures. She was the first person that encouraged me to write things down.
My grandmother was a civil servant and a Marine wife. She was also a writer – never published, but always capturing, always recording. She traveled with my grandfather to California, North and South Carolina, Hawaii, each time rebuilding a life and home for my dad and uncle.
When my grandmother was diagnosed with dementia a few years ago, I wasn't convinced things would really change in our relationship. Though, of course, they did. She gradually slipped away, losing many of the memories that defined our bond. And I slipped away, too, becoming more focused on college and what I was going to do with my life.
On Thanksgiving Day, I sat by my Granny Barbara in hospice as she passed away after a stroke. I held her hand and told her not to be afraid, told her how important she was to us and that we loved her. Some part of me thinks that even in her debilitated state, she heard.
Immediately after she died, the first thing I could think to do was write, capture all of my memories of her before I forgot. I understood how important recording was to her, because I was now feeling that desperate urge to collect what was already slipping through my hands.
While going through some of her things, I found a typed journal entry that talked about me and a time we had gone to McDonald's together.
"I was enchanted with Claire as she played on the equipment, but especially as she showed her great fondness of Ronald McDonald by sitting on his lap, in the crook of his arms for a long time. Claire hugged Ronald and kissed his face and said, 'My Donald.' Then she looked over at me so contentedly and said, 'I could stay here forever.'"
When you read this in today's Daily Beacon, I like to think that this makes my grandmother a published author, even if it is just of a somewhat embarrassing recollection of my 3-year-old self's obsession with Ronald.
Although I was too young to remember this moment, I can picture it – the sun shining down on Ronald's plastic head and Granny Barbara just looking at me and smiling, content. Maybe she was also thinking "I could stay here forever."
Despite the sadness of the past few days, I have been reminded of the subtle impacts my grandmother had on the lives of others. She was a supportive friend, a loving mother, a good listener.
She was also my Granny Barbara – a woman who taught me about grace and fresh starts and the importance of words. And it is through my words that we really can stay here forever.
Claire Dodson is a junior in English. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.