Life Story

“I used to dream of being a princess,” my grandmother exhaled.

I looked up from my book. “Grandmother! You’re awake!”

She smiled gently and patted the ever-widening space on the bed next to her thigh. I tucked my bookmark into my spot, set the book on the uncomfortable chair, and gently lowered myself onto her bed. The water-proof sheet crinkled a bit as she shifted slightly to be more comfortable looking at me.

“I used to dream about being an actress, with my name in lights. And dapper men opening car doors for me. And fur coats and diamonds.”

“Oh, my – think of all of the autographs you would have had to sign!”

“I used to dream about sailing to the moon in a rocket ship.”

“Really? I didn’t know you ever wanted to be an astronaut!”

“I used to dream about winning the Olympics.”

Before I could respond, she continued, “I used to dream about writing a novel. About swimming the Atlantic. About being First Lady. About curing cancer. About solving unsolvable equations. About so many things.”

“Of course, grandmother. We all have dreams! I always imagined I would be an opera singer, but I can’t really sign that well.”

“I never dreamed of being a war bride. Having three rambunctious sons. Working in my father’s dental office until he died and my husband took it over and working there then. Having seven grandchildren, burying the eighth.”

“I never dreamed that I could enjoy Little League games and spelling bees and doll beauty pageants and dance recitals as much as I do… did.”

She glanced at my book, a romance novel by my favorite author. “I never dreamed that life wouldn’t be like a story, but that it would be richer and more dramatic and more important than any tale told.”

“I never dreamed that I would be happy with a small, unremarkable existence, but I am. Overjoyed, actually.”

Her eyes focused sharply on me, “Don’t dream my dreams, dear one. Dream my life.”

Then her eyelids fluttered shut, a small smile played at the corners of her mouth. I leaned over and kissed her forehead softly before returning to my lopsided chair. Instead of returning to my novel, I picked up the faded photo album from her nightstand, carefully turning the pages of her life.

6 thoughts on “Life Story

  1. Oh my lord. I’m heartbroken and delighted. This was the most poignant, wonderfully paced, carefully developed story. Grandmother and the narrator are both clear, authentic, and believable. That opening line drew me in so effectively. And the pace at which she spits out her unrealised dreams kept me there to witness the unfolding of her eventful, unexpected life.

    You could easily have ended with the grandmother’s last utterance, but actually I’m glad you didn’t. I needed to know that the narrator had really listened to her grandmother’s words.

  2. There were so many things I loved about this, but I’ll pick one. The early conversation between the narrator and the grandmother felt a bit awkward – like “just let Grandmother speak”. But that’s so real and sweet. There have been so many times that I’ve been in a conversation with one of my grandparents where I was trying too hard until I realized I just need to be quiet. That part gave the whole piece a foundation for me.

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