My grandmother gifted these to me yesterday, from the library she shared with my grandfather. He passed away before I was born, so I know him through secondhand stories––his photographic memory, skill with rhetoric, kindness.
The two of them met near the end of the war. My grandmother was working as a nurse in Iowa City, where he’d been sent to recuperate. The first time he walked up to her, he reminded her of a movie star. On their first date, he told her that he was going to marry her. She protested, said he hardly knew her, but this didn’t faze him. After a couple weeks, her time at the hospital was up and she went home to Cedar Rapids, to work in the hospital there. He visited her and her family’s farm briefly. Her dad called him “Bill” instead of Blair the whole week, but that didn’t faze him either. Two months after their first date, while she was scrubbed up and in surgery, the phone rang. The head nurse answered it and called over to my grandmother: “Are you free to get married on Saturday?” She protested, “I don’t have any shoes.” The doctor operating offered her his ticket for an extra pair; he had just been called up and was leaving soon anyway.
She was so surprised and pleased that I had paid attention to the library on my last visit home, had picked out certain books as particularly beautiful and meaningful. She said they bought Here Is New York on their first trip to the city, in 1963. No story with Ulysses, but the edition is gorgeous, and his signature on the first page. I haven’t read it yet, but that’ll change soon, given some time and determination. A new mission for 2012.
These are my favorite: the stories I inherit.