My grandmother had just months, but I didn’t know that then. I pulled up a chair, she laid in her bed, and we held hands. Mine, young and soft, long fingers from practicing scales on the piano. Hers, thin yet still soft, with loose skin and blue veins.
“I’m going to Morocco in two weeks, Mimi,” I said.
“I always liked Princess Grace,” she replied. Her blue eyes were enormous behind eyeglasses, and she looked the same as when I was four years old, staying overnight in the cabin in the woods with my older sister, while my parents tended to the new baby. She looked the same to me.
Mimi gripped my hand. “You know, I’m not afraid to die,” she said, blinking. She smiled at me. “I’m not.”
“I believe you. You’ll get to see my Dad.” I was a 24-year-old caught up in my little world of boys and clothes and two-for-one drinks on Friday night. I kept our talk small and light.
She nodded solemnly and kept a tight hold on my hand. “That’s right, I’ll see your father. He died too soon.” Mimi’s daughter was a widow at 50.
“Well, be sure to let me know, okay?” I laughed, to make her smile again. “When you get to heaven and see Dad, be sure to let me know.”
The watery blue eyes didn’t blink. “I will.”
She gave me a Limoges plate. She was giving her grandchildren mementos, and I held the small plate, trimmed in gold, in my hands. I would place it in my studio apartment, amid the second-hand furniture and bargain-store kitchen accessories. My Limoges plate.
Mimi died on August 16, 1983, the same day that Elvis died in 1977. I was with my Dad the day Elvis died. We were driving home from the beach and he turned on the radio, so that’s how we knew. All the way home, we listened to “Love Me Tender” and “Are You Lonesome Tonight.”
When Mimi died, my mother called me early, before I went to work. I’d forgotten the conversation we’d had in May until I got to the office.
I was working for the Old Stone Bank and the building was on South Main Street, the old IBM building, the same building my dad had worked in some twenty years earlier. His company had relocated across the river sometime in the 70’s, and he worked at that location until 1978, when he retired. He died suddenly four months later.
Mid-morning, Marlene, the secretary whose desk was as far away from mine as any, walked back to where I worked, passing by the loan officers, and stood in front of my desk, holding a package.
“Martha, I bet you’ll know. This was delivered to us just now but I’ve never heard of the company.” She handed the package to me. It was from Chicago and had a label affixed to it that read, “Forum Insurance Company, 180 South Main Street, Providence, RI.” I stared at the package for a long time. When I looked up at Marlene, she asked me if I was okay.
I nodded. “This is the company my father worked for, but they moved from this place over ten years ago.” I wrote down the correct address and handed the package to her.
“Thanks,” Marlene said. “You helped me find the answer.”