Dear Pop Pop,
The reason you haven’t heard me in awhile is that I’ve come completely unmoored these past few weeks. You see, someone shot and killed ten people in a grocery store that we shopped at for years here in Boulder, Colorado. It was the kind of store that still had the western mechanical pony ride for a nickel next to the registers that Nathan, your great grandson grew up riding. You would have really liked Nathan, he reminds me of you, straight shooter, yet kind in his words and actions and always has time to talk to a stranger.
So, I’ve been doing everything to keep my mind off this horrible event, as you can imagine. That’s when your letter fell out of a box of old photos this past week. It was the kind of box that hadn’t been opened for fifteen years; just kept dragging it around with me from house to house like an anchor never pulled up, behind a boat that I keep on steering. Maybe you know the kind…kids report cards, long gone photos of dogs I loved and still do, class pictures of my kids from each grade, back when class photos were as bad as could get; puzzled looks on their faces, hair tousled and dirty shirt, so authentic and heartbreakingly real. So lately, I have become the princess of ‘putz’, rolling around in all of this grief.
But back to the letter. It was from 1983 and I noticed I was only a freshman in college. You told me about how you and Nannie would pick me up next week from Newark Airport and we would go straight to Evelyn’s in Belmar (don’t tell your cousins) and have a big lobster dinner before heading to the Jersey shore. It was our favorite, you and I, and I would wait all year for the warmth of you and Nannie, and the butter soaked lobster meat, gazing at the tanks the whole evening in fascination. Life was perfect back then. Or so I thought. It was that life wasn’t so perfect for you or our world back then. You lived through The Great Depression, WWII, many deaths from illness modern medicine hadn’t figured out yet, and more hardship than I ever knew. But you showed me strength, love and humor. Always. But most of all, your optimism.
At the end of your letter, you signed it, “keep your ship on a good course always, Nance”.
It got me to thinking. It broke my trance. So I called Nathan and said I wanted to take him to Dim Sum in Denver. “You know, the one with the fish tanks that you stared at the whole meal when you were little?” I told him we need to get back to the fish. We need to share a meal and share a history of optimism. I didn’t tell him that, but I think he knew. We devoured our favorite treats, mainly the shrimp dumplings and laughed and talked until we were the last ones in there. Just us, our silly ritual and our unfaltering optimism and went out into the sunlight and back to Boulder.
Pop Pop, thanks for listening, and oh, if you're around the big guy, please let him know we need a little extra mercy now. And perhaps a few more seafood dinners.
Your biggest fan,