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Answers in the Attic
1985 - “Cue the blindfold, hike, sunset, picnic--with my favorite nutella and banana sandwiches! Ah! That new Chicago song “You’re the Inspiration”, kneel down, DIAMOND RING! I say yes! AH! I love him!” I exclaimed in the shortest run-down of last night’s proposal. I held my grandmother’s home phone and climbed up the stairs to the attic as I heard Sherri scream in excitement.
“Lisa! I am so excited for you! I can’t believe you’re finally going to marry Dave! I mean, you two have been together since high school! So when are you going to get your beautiful Givenchy dress? And where are you going to hold your huge, extravagant wedding?” she asks.
Yeah. So, my grandfather is Quincey Harrison; you know the guy who owns all of the Harrison storage shelters? All of my cousins have held bomb weddings that everyone has a cow about because my grandfather is filthy rich and agrees to pay for it all. He spoils all of my eurotrash cousins, but my brother and I always get the short end of the stick. My mother would tell us to love our grandfather for who he is and we do. It just seems like he doesn’t love us. We’ve never really understood why.
“I’m not going to get a Givenchy dress and I’m going to have a backyard wedding at Dave’s house, remember? I’m looking in my grandmother’s attic right now. I remember coming up here way back in the 60s and finding the most perfect wedding dress. It looks like it’s from the 1930s but with a little alterations here and there, it’ll be perfect!” I cough, “but it is so dusty in here and there is all this rat crap around. Anyway, Sherri, I’m going to make it look like that one dress Dorothy--you know the girl from that new show Golden Girls?--I want it to look like the dress she wore to her prom, but white and so mint! Remember that dress?”
We started talking about Golden Girls and when the next episode was, for a few minutes until I found the dress, carefully folded up in the corner under a pile of boxes. Excited, I hang up with Sherri and unravel the dress. To my surprise, a little velvet box, two letters, and a picture roll out of the dress.
I pick up the box and open it, finding a gold diamond ring, simple and shining. I put it aside and look at the old picture. It’s a total clydesdale gentleman in a suit and tie, wearing a smirk on his lips. On the back of the picture it read “Rowland C. Warner. October 1924. 17 years old”. Sixty years ago? Who is this guy?
The letters answered my question. One was in an envelope with a “return to sender” stamp on it. It was a letter from my grandmother 49 years ago.
December 7, 1936
My dearest Rowland,
Where have you gone to my love? I have some wonderful news. I am pregnant with a baby girl and she is yours. Please come back to me. Our wedding is in less than a month and you have been no where to be found for over 2 weeks. I have asked many people where you have gone and they haven’t seen you either. I know your father’s death is hard news to stomach, dear, but there are other people here on Earth who love you and need you just as much as you needed him. You’re a father now, love.
1936. That’s the year before my mother was born. Mom isn’t grandpa’s kid?! No wonder Michael and I have been getting no inheritance from him. He must know. Does mom?
The second letter was addressed to “All who still have a reason to live”, and it was written on November 19, 1936 in sharper, tinier writing.
November 19, 1936
All who still have a reason to live,
I forgive those who consider myself to be important in their lives but I refuse to exist in a world where murder travels maliciously and have chosen to join my father in Heaven. Whoever finds my body, please bury me next to my father, for I want to be with only him. And someone please tell my fiance Evelyn Hastings that I am sorry I left her alone and know she will find who will love her and need her as much as I needed my father. With that, I am gone for God gives me no reason to go on.
My regards to all,
Rowland C. Warner
I felt my face grow hot as tears began to form in my eyes. My hands began to clench hard and the old paper crumpled beneath my shock and sorrow. My grandmother loved someone else and still does. Why else would she keep this dress, his picture, her ring, and the letters to their goodbye stowed away in her closet? My heart wrenched as I imagined the pain my grandmother went through. And he didn’t find her worth living for? How could he leave her alone? And he’s my true grandfather. Speechless, I wiped my tears from my eyes, folded my grandmother’s unworn wedding dress and walked downstairs back to my grandmother’s living room. There she was, knitting in her rocking chair. I went to her and kissed her on the cheek.
“Mamu, you are perfect in every way” I said.