It’s hard to find words to describe something so natural, like breathing, or laughing or taking long dramatic pauses whilst staring out the window. It’s just who I am, it’s what I do. If you know me in real life, you have heard me wax poetic about this crazy journey I’ve been on for the past hundred years of college. You see, it all started when I decided that English was my “thing” (and by “thing” I mean the only thing I was really interested in doing, although I had many things I was good at, I’m a jack of all trades, thankyouverymuch).
I wasn’t prepared for what would happen when I decided to apply to SDSU, all I knew back then was that this is where my grandpa taught and I felt something magical inside of me whenever I walked into the library. Now, my grandpa was an Atheist, so I find it hard to believe it is his spirit coming down from the heavens to guide me, but something was happening inside my soul. Maybe it was my grandma who was guiding me, or maybe it was just some weird psychological subconscious psycho babble bullshit, but really, I felt it. I still feel it. I feel it on cold days when the wind is blowing just right, and the clouds are heavy and everything around me is silent. I feel it when its sweltering out and I’m hot and annoyed and there are too many people and not enough seats in the smoking section. I feel it. It’s this indescribable feeling that I just can’t seem to understand, even after all these years. I felt it for the first time when I went to SDSU for a research paper I was writing for a class I was taking at community college, I walked up the stairs and walked directly to where his book is sitting quietly in the stacks. I held his book in my hands, knowing he’d never touched it, but I was and that meant something. I followed the winding path to the Faulkner section, pulled out an old book titled “Faulkner at the University” and opened it. It was checked out in the 80’s various times to “Faculty” I flipped through the pages and saw little marks everywhere, and I knew it was him. I’ve come to know his mark in a book. Its like a little check mark, just acknowledging something important was said. I gravitate towards those entries no matter what. Wondering if I’m thinking what he was thinking. I’ll never know. What I do know is that it’s magic. It’s spiritual. It’s the closest thing I’ll ever have to knowing a man I never knew. A man I wish I knew, I long to know.
The library has been quiet these past few days. Silent. Campus is empty, not a soul to disturb me. I never want to leave. It’s like Heaven. My own personal Heaven. This is exactly where I want to go when I die, except I’d like him to be with me. I grapple with this foreign feeling because I know my grandma is with me. I knew her so well, I can feel her every second of every single day. I didn’t know him, the man who I have been dedicating my efforts to. I don’t know if he’s guiding me, or if he’s just in the ground somewhere and all the feelings that I feel are just me, feeling.
I reached out to various people who knew him, some gave me insight I was so grateful to have. Laughing about who he was, the wild and crazy things he did. I watched the memorial service that SDSU had for him, and listened as his colleagues and friends told stories and cried and remembered who he was. I cherish those moments, those things that I’ve learned about him. Two of his best friends, his closest colleagues, the two men who could have told me the things I really wanted to know, fill the gaps in my created memory of him, died within a month of each other, within a week of contacting both of them. The glimmer of hope that I had to know the men who knew him so well was totally gone. Since then I’ve tried to contact others who may have known him better than most, but I haven’t heard back from them. So he lives in my memory, half constructed from pictures and letters and stories, and half from my own imagination of what I think he would have been like. His obsessive desire to know everything about everything rubbed off on me apparently.
So, here I am at the end of my SDSU journey. 10 pages away from graduating and though that seems like an eternity when I’m staring at a blank page, I know that when it’s over I’ll feel like it all went by far too quickly, but for now I feel like I’ll never finish because I don’t know where to start.
I’m not sure what is next, or where I’m going or what I’m even doing right now. I haven’t officially called TOD on my college career, because I’m not ready to let it go forever. I do know that the next chapter of my life is about to begin and we’re going to start a family. But that’s as far as I’ve gotten.
Today was my due date, it was also my grandfathers birthday. When I got pregnant it felt like all the stars had lined up just right, but it was too good to be true. Of course I know “it will happen when the time is right” but I really wanted it to be right back then. I imagine myself big and pregnant, waiting for the little miracle to arrive. Or holding my newborn, gazing into the eyes of my husband and I perfectly combined. Neither are a reality. Instead I’m staring down at the grave of my grandpa and grandma, the people who guided me here, the people whose blood runs through my veins. I am grateful that they loved each other and created my mom, who created me. I’ll listen to Frank Sinatra and Willie Nelson and have a nice good cry. Because I miss them and I miss the baby who should have been born today. And then I’ll write and write until this paper is done and I can close the chapter of my life that I truly loved.
I wrote him a letter, asking him to take care of my baby and give him or her the hugs I couldn’t. I asked him to teach my baby everything he knew about Faulkner. I asked him to tell Ga how much I missed her. I thanked him for guiding me. I sat and stared out at the open sea with the chilling wind blowing and music playing loud enough for him to hear. I am grateful. I am very grateful for this life I have.
I’ll miss being a college student. I’ll miss pulling all nighters and wandering campus at all hours of the day and night. But I’m grateful that I’ve had these hundred long years of enjoyment, and it’s time to move on. Mourning the loss of a lot of things today and simultaneously celebrating the life of them too.