I wonder how anyone can do it.
How can anyone sit down and chronicle the life of a 94 year old woman into a 2x2 inch column for the newspaper.
Someone can sit down with a little pad of paper and a pencil and write down the dates and times. Someone can make a list and count up all the grandchildren, the great grandchildren, and the great-great grandchildren. Someone can list the places she's lived, the child that she lost, the husband who died almost fourteen years ago to the day.
But who can say who she was when she was a little girl? Who knows her stories of how she felt as a young mother, a young bride? Who knows her secrets?
Who knows how much her family loved her? How do you capture what her voice sounded like when she laughed? How can you put into words what it meant, as a little child, sitting with her as she told you Bible stories..."working" side by side with her in the garden?
How when you were a little child, you needed your mother to come to your end of the year party at school, and your mother had already said she would go to your brother's end of the year party and they were on the same stupid day, so your grandmother came and sat in her little lawn chair and watched you. And no one else's grandmother came, just yours, but it didn't make you feel sad. It made you feel proud. Because she loved you enough to come.
How she was the one who sent you a card when you graduated college. And in her shaky, 92 year-old woman handwriting she wrote how proud she was of you.
And how she sent you a birthday card the next year and wrote that she hoped your "bee-hind" was feeling better, because you told her all about how you fell of your own front porch stairs and your entire ass was an amazing shade of purple.
How you developed your love of writing and reading, by watching her. How you labored over those letters you sent her when she was at her winter home in Florida. How, as a little girl, you looked forward so much to when she came home to her house next door to yours. How she would always bring you special things. A Florida t-shirt. Pecans. Georgia peaches.
How the very last time you saw her, you knew in your heart that it would be the very last time ever. How her shaky, frail little arms went around you. How she whispered in your ear, "Love you" as she tried to pat your hair.
There are so many things that just don't have words.
I'm left to wonder who I will be someday, to the newspaper. How it will feel when I am an old woman and my children are left to write the story of my life. I hope to God they know how much I love them. I hope they never, never know how painful the first years of their life were for me.
I can't tell them what an outsider I feel like in this world, most of the time. I can't tell them that if it were not for them? I know I might not even exist anymore.
How do you put any of that into words?
Or maybe you don't. Not really. Maybe that's why the newspaper gives you such a small column. Just a little square that can never encompass the bigness that is life.
Because you just can't, I suppose.