My parents made a book for my grampa this Christmas. It is a picture book of his life. It begins with a photo of his parents and their children. His sister and mother are seated, ankles crossed, dresses covering all but their shins. My grampa stands center right next to his dad, shoulders squared, lips cocked slightly to the right as if in mid-whisper. Everyone else stares straight into the camera.
The next pages contain him with my nana. They are newlyweds. Or newly courting. My nana steals the frames. She poses in a bikini by the car, sits on his knee at the beach. She is what you would call a knockout. One page over she appears grinning with my Aunt Dot – the last of her three babies.
I flip the page and come to a spread of people who are no longer here. I wonder what it’s like for my grampa to get this far. We are only on page 7.
I appear for the first time a page later. I am perhaps nine. I still have bangs and the short, cute nose of childhood. Things will change.
I page past Christmases I can’t exactly recall. However, I know I lived in California. I can tell because nana is wearing her oxygen mask. I see my sister’s graduate school commencement I never attended. And family Halloween parties I missed out on because flying 3,000 miles to dress up didn’t seem to make sense at the time. Although it does now.
One photo shows my grandparents dressed as The Three Amigos with my Aunt Dot, all three wearing sombreros and ponchos. Their mustaches are glued on upside down. That image still makes me laugh.
There is the first time my family made ravioli together. It was about three years ago. My nana was still here. She made the ricotta filling with my mom on the kitchen island. My grampa made the dough from memory at the table. He trusted his hands when memory failed him. They came out perfect. In every photo he looks like he has something to say.
Nana is wearing her oxygen mask in most of the photos. She used to carry a portable tank in public. I barely notice it now. She was something of a catch even in her eighties. Even with plastic tubing around her face.
The last few pages are of my nana shopping for a wedding dress with my sister and dancing with my grampa at the reception. I remember watching them shuffle around the floor. They stayed along the edges. Her tubing didn’t stretch much further. I remember watching from behind a wooden beam and seeing my mom crying. She was across the room watching her parents dance their last dance.
The picture book goes on. There we are at my dad’s remission party. Jen is grinning. She isn’t pregnant yet. I close the book knowing we already need a new edition, just four weeks into the new year.
It feels strange to be planning my wedding knowing my nana won’t be there. I am hoping that in her own way she will show up. Last night I dreamt of a bedroom filled with ladybugs. I wanted to take a picture of them crawling up the walls. But I knew if I woke up they would be gone.
As I look at different venues I wonder if my grampa will come. I hope he does. Even if he doesn’t remember it the next day. Because maybe our photos we will make the next edition of the picture book. Maybe grampa will thumb through the pages and find himself there smiling. Maybe he will think of two young people just starting out in life. And he will remember being happy.