Monday, March 21, 2005


The clipping was yellowed, naturally. Fifty years had passed since it was first published, but the ink hadn't faded. Surely this clipping was, somewhere, preserved on microfilm and will outlast all those it mentions. It will outlast me.

My mother showed it to me, my grandmother's obituary. Her cousin had found it in his own late mother's scrapbook, my great-aunt, the sister of the victim. He brought this clipping and two bottles of white wine for dinner. My mother, who is turning sixty next year, laid her own mother to rest five decades ago.

The deceased was a stylish young mother of three, sister to several, wife to one and lover to another. She expired in a car accident with a man she may have loved, not my grandfather. The obituary said the driver of the car was unharmed, and she was pronounced dead at the scene.

I thought about my mother as a child, hearing adults debate her own mother's death, and all their questions and suspicions. I think about my grandmother's life on public record. Her marriage, the birth of her children and her death, all dates without detail. And, I wonder why my mother's cousin brought the clipping. Is it because my mother had so little opportunity to share my grandmother's life that she must resort to preserving her death?

The driver who killed my grandmother, whether by accident or intention, is likely to still, every so often, think of her. I am sure he's thought of her, his young mistress. The mandolin player. The beauty. If he is guilty, I wonder if his failing memory has offered him peace in his final days.

I've heard he still drinks tea in the town we have all since left, the town with the public records of my family's births and deaths. The same files that have, or will, inevitably record his own.

No comments: