Once upon a time, this book was part of the collection of the Thomas Jefferson Library in Jefferson City. And then it was discarded. How did it come to be in a thrift store some 150 miles away?
I had never heard Doris Grumbach, and I suppose nobody else did either, which is why the book was probably not checked and why it was probably taken off the shelf. I suppose I should have known her because she was a regular contributor on National Public Radio, which we listen to. She had written a book called Into the End Zone which chronicles the year she became 71 and how she coped with getting old. Then she wrote the book I found, called Extra Innings, again using a sports metaphor for the aging process.
She began this book on the date of the publication of her first memoir, some 2 years later, and then she goes on to detail the subsequent year in her life. The woman has written some novels, which I have never read but intend to check out to see if the writing in them is as marvelous as it is in this book.
Judy comes up to me in aerobics class and says, “Tell me about Doris Grumbach” as she hands me some Madeline L'Engle books to take home. And she has put a post-it note on one of the books that says "Doris Grumbach," as a reminder that she needs to ask me. I don’t know where to begin. I usually don’t read books with the intent of offering a review. I just know I find her writing exquisite, but I can’t really define what that means. The pages are bristling with post-it notes where I have marked things she has written that caused me to pause, and think.
She writes: "One of my daughters said she liked letters better than calls. 'I like to read them over.' Letters are history. They are the savored and saved past, the instigators of memory....."
I agree. My parents call me every Saturday morning because they have a flat-rate long-distance plan so it doesn’t cost them anything. I love talking to them. I love hearing their voices, and my Dad’s laugh, and my mother always has an interesting story to tell. I look forward to Saturday morning when I know the phone will ring and we will be connected across 1,500 miles by that telephone wire.
My dad also writes me a letter every week.
He just writes about what is happening in his life. Some would think it boring, but as I read this, I can picture him bustling around the house, doing his chores... I can picture the mail lady “steaming by” as he puts it.
And he does very clever and creative things on the envelopes. When I used to work at the post office, and the clerks actually sorted the mail that came in, they always watched for my dad’s letter because of what he would put on the front.
There is something extra special about holding that letter in my hand and reading it over and mulling about it. I know that some day these letters will stop. But I have these instigators of memory on hand for the future that I know is coming...