How a little black book brought me closer to my favorite person and myself
I looked around, taking in the cheery gloom of our living room, overrun with flowers and cloaked in black attire. There were maybe a handful of people here who were truly close to my grandfather. But I didn’t mind knowing that; it only made the relationship I had with him even more special.
“Hey, sis!” My brother sauntered up to me, better dressed than I’d ever seen in my life. But there were little details that betrayed his formal facade. He’d already taken off his suit jacket, loosened his tie, and had his crispy hair tousled by his new girlfriend; leaving him with a permanently disheveled look. He grinned as he greeted me but there was a definite hint of sadness behind his eyes and smile that he was trying to cover up.
“Papa left this for you.” He reached his hand out towards me, holding a sleek, fancy looking black book. In that moment, time seemed to slow down for a second, stretching into infinity as my eyes locked on that little black book, his hand slowly gliding through the air in the longest second I’ve ever experienced in my life.
“What is this?” I feigned disinterest as I turned it over in my hand, memories flooding into my mind from the times I spent with my grandfather doing experiments in his makeshift garage lab. My eyes welled up with the grief I had been trying to hold back all day. My brother looked me in the eyes but was nice enough to pretend he didn’t notice it.
“I don’t know, it’s blank. I’m guessing it was only meant for you to understand anyway, I know how you two were together.”
My papa and I were sort of the black sheep of the family. He was kind of dark and eccentric, and often became obsessive about his work and whatever hobby he was currently dabbling in. I was always interested in what he was doing, no matter what it was. I was also a dabbler, possibly to my detriment since I could never seem to find something to stick to long enough to make a career out of it. If he hadn’t existed, I would have felt like a complete alien in the family.
“Yeah, I felt like he understood me. Not many people do.”
“That’s for sure. Well, enjoy your little puzzle or whatever it is. I’m gonna go get a drink.” He walked over towards the kitchen, barely making it to the doorway before being accosted by our estranged Aunt Shannon.
“Oh Billy, look at you, all grown up and dressed all fancy like a real man.” She tousled his hair too, and I chuckled for the first time all week, watching him sigh and straighten his back and puff up his chest in an attempt to look more adult.
“I’m 22, I am a real man.” he scoffed and slipped from her grasp to the solace of the drink table, where he poured a healthy shot of vodka and downed it in a flash. I knew how he felt.
I started flipping through the pages and sure enough, it looked blank. I couldn’t understand why grandpa would give me an empty notebook and honestly I was a little disappointed and hurt. I slipped it into my pocket when suddenly a memory popped into my head.
“We used to write secret notes to each other, your grandmother and I. Back in high school.” Papa let out a breathy laugh and a sigh. “I would write her notes with an invisible ink pen I designed, and I had given her a kind of ‘revealer’ which looked just like a regular eraser. It kept our secrets and our love safe between the two of us. ” He laughed as he remembered her, but then his eyes crinkled in pain as he felt the pain of losing her all over again.
That was less than a year ago, not long after my grandmother had died and we were cleaning out the desk drawer in her art studio. I suddenly had a flash of inspiration and ran up to my grandfather’s room and started tearing open all his drawers, flinging clothes to the side and opening cabinets, looking for something that looked like an regular old eraser. I opened up a small drawer that had several pens and markers in it and there it was, an ratty old looking eraser, with a heart drawn on it and what looked like years and years of wear and tear. I pulled the book out of my pocket and started fiercely rubbing the first page with the revealer. Suddenly words started appearing and I could read “My darling Jesse, I knew you would remember…” I kept rubbing but there were no more words on this page so I flipped the page and started rubbing again.
“Jesse, I am so proud of you. You were so curious growing up and you always absorbed everything I said like a sponge. I knew you would remember the story about me and your grandmother and find my messages. Yes, I could have just left you a letter in my will like a normal person, but well, where’s the fun in that, eh?...In my time with you all these years, I tried to introduce you to as many different hobbies and skills as possible, so you could find what you’re passionate about. A job is just a job, but passion can make a career into a life that you’re excited to live. I’m not quite sure if you’ve found your passion yet, but I’m confident you will and it will lead you to great things. In the meantime, I’ve left a present for you that will hopefully give you a head start towards your dreams. Love, your Papa forever and always.”
I turned the page and rubbed once more with the magic eraser. “1101 Prescott St # 715 - 3-8-27.” I typed the address into my phone gps and ran downstairs and out the door, just barely catching my brother waving his hand and yelling at me, “Jesse?! Where are you running off to so fast?!” before I slammed the door. I got in my car and drove about 20 minutes to get to Prescott St, one town over from us. I arrived at 1101 and looked up to find a storage facility. I walked in, found locker number 715, took a deep breath, and put in the combination 3-8-27. The lock clicked open and inside I found another note that said “For the realization of all your dreams, in life and in love, whatever those dreams may be. Be you, be proud, be courageous. I love you.”
My eyes clouded up again as I grabbed the second item, a ring box. I opened it and found my grandmother’s engagement ring. The ring that I had wanted to ask him for to propose to my girlfriend, but hadn’t yet had the courage to ask for yet, and then had thought I lost my chance when I lost him forever. I guess he had already known after all. He was such a great secret keeper. I wiped the tears from my eyes and stuck my hand in the locker again. Behind the ring box was an ordinary looking pen that I knew was anything but ordinary. I pulled it out and placed it in my pocket as well. The last item in the locker was a neatly stacked pile of money. I took it out and held it in my hand. Was this real? All of this? I was so overwhelmed with so many emotions in that moment. Grief over my grandfather but also joy in having gotten one last chance to celebrate his quirkiness with him. Love for my girlfriend and pride in knowing that my grandfather knew the real me and had not only accepted it but gave me his blessing. And shock and excitement at the pile of money in my hand that looked like roughly twenty thousand dollars! I honestly had no idea what I wanted to do with that money yet but for the first time in my life I was excited and motivated about my future and knew I would make him proud with whatever I chose to do and be. I walked out of the storage facility feeling immensely grateful for my eccentric, loving, accepting grandfather and the final imprint he left on me. The most significant day of my life, invisibly etched into that innocuous little black book.