Friday, October 3, 2008

Great Bend = Heart = Home

I sit here at 11 p.m. Friday (that's 3 a.m. in grandma time) at a computer desk on Monroe Street in Great Bend, Kan.

The computer desk is one of the few modern conveniences of this house my grandparents first purchased two generations ago. Above the desk hangs an art print that features farm implements, an old barn and a windmill -- a perfect contrast to the newfangled technology. The computer is a desktop, mind you, with a loud keyboard, obtrusive speakers and a huge CPU. Someone has taped the top of an e-mail exchange between my mother and grandma -- just in case the addresses are forgotten I'm sure. Behind the computer monitor, my grandfather's "Internet for Senior Citizens" diploma hangs, recently covered up by a laminated copy of his funeral program.

The computer desk has a single drawer that I love pawing through. My grandma has no secrets, I've discerned over the years, but I still take great delight unearthing benign tidbits of her:

  • Even though she uses Microsoft Outlook, she obviously has little faith in its contact list. She rips the top inch of e-mails in order to keep the address for her relatives. Some of these scraps of paper date back to 2005, which is like 1968 in Internet years.

  • As if those scraps weren't enough, the drawer and desktop are littered with napkins from a host of occasions and holidays, most with e-mail addresses meticulously copied onto them. On her desk alone, there are napkins for St. Patrick's Day, Easter, autumn, graduation and spring. Apparently only pretty napkins are allowed near the computer. The Bounty ones (likely a generic brand actually) are relegated to the kitchen table.

  • Other relics from our recent past include a filofax, a magnifying glass, a dainty watch and enough phone books to surely locate a number for anyone in Barton County if she doesn't already have their e-mail written down on a napkin.

After a long day at my grandmother's, I love sitting in this chair and noticing details that could be recent or touches of my grandparents' from decades past. The window treatments next to me are pinned shut to keep the light out. Nearby, a flashlight rests on the floor, propped up against the wall. I like to imagine that my grandma pinned the drapes shut 20 years ago so I could see the television more clearly and that flashlight might have dropped from the nearby buffet six months ago when grandpa was fumbling around for his glasses.

These bits are pieces of my grandparents, reminders that no matter what religion you practice or what your last name is, parts of you will always be the same. No matter how much time passes, with seasons marked by napkins, a grandparent is your time capsule.

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