Who are Mary and Bob?

If I believed in ghosts, I would say one led me to their journals . . . Here’s the story.

Mary and Bob circa 1964

In August 2006, the week after Grandma died, I traveled to her home in Morenci, Michigan to be with my family. Her house was in disarray – most items out of place – half-packed and sorted for distribution to relatives, Good Will, garage sales, the landfill. Those couple of days in her home were filled with lots of traffic and chatter – practical discussions about which grand-daughter in-law would take which set of silver and how to ship the old post office desk without damaging it. The great grandchildren were set up with stacks of old bills and the shredder; neighbors continued to come and go. The place was noisy.

But the nights were different. My parents slept in Grandma’s room and I slept in the guest room. My brother, his family and the rest of our extended family stayed in nearby hotels and with Grandma’s sister, who lives in the same small town. That first evening after my parents went to bed, things finally got quiet. By lamplight, the house didn’t seem so taken apart.

Even though I was exhausted from two flights, hours of delay in O’Hare, the emotional high of seeing family after too long apart, and the anxiety of how to comfort loved ones in mourning, my thoughts raced. It would be hours before I could sleep. I wanted four things: a strong drink, dessert, a made for TV movie, and the lowered brain activity that was sure to come from all of the above.

Decades earlier, when Grandpa had been diagnosed with heart problems, his doctor prescribed periodic nightcaps. Right up until her death, Grandma continued the ritual of sporadic spots of Canadian Club at bedtime. It didn’t take much hunting to find her stash. Not far from the bottle of whiskey, she had a bag of chocolates stowed. I poured an inch of alcohol and followed it with Vernors and ice cubes. It was then, while I unwrapped a few mini candy bars and arranged them on a plate, that the inexplicable thought came. It was simple and direct.

“Go to the back bedroom.”

So I did. And as soon as I arrived in the doorway of the bedroom, I thought,

“Open the bottom drawer of the dresser.”

So I did. I saw folded blankets, but without pause, I somehow knew to lift them.

And there they were — stacks of Grandpa’s diaries, dozens of spiral notebooks, titled with the words, “Mary and Bob’s Journal”.

The odd thing is, I wasn’t surprised. There had been no hunting, no searching, no memory of the journals. It was as if I had been directed straight to them by an outside force.

I would be spending that evening with my grandparents. Both of them.

Late into the night, I sat in Grandma’s chair sipping her Canadian Club and read about visits to the library and games of solitaire. Page after page, Grandpa had chronicled their retirement activities in third person with luxuriously mundane detail. Day after day, there are wake up times and temperatures, golf scores and errands recounted. Rarely, if ever, did he mention emotions or qualitative judgments. Things simply were. I read for hours, entranced with the peaceful rhythm of their days.

“October 6, 1979

“Happy Birthday to Mary!!

“Bob up at nine-thirty and Mary shortly after. . . . after goofing off a while he and Mary went to Toledo. Mary bought a blouse at Lion Store and also some writing paper. Bob bought a Parker refill for “The Big Red”. Then they went to Best and Co. for a Texas Instruments TI-1025 calculator and to Bill Knapp’s for Mary’s birthday supper and cake. Back home quite early (about seven) and to bed around eleven.”

In 1987, when Grandpa took ill and was admitted to the hospital, Grandma’s handwriting replaces his. Several pages later, she wrote this entry:

“March 7, 1987

“Bob died at 1:16 a.m.
“Harlan Correll and Ruth
[her sister] went to Toledo Hospital with me but we arrived twelve (12) minutes too late.”

Grandma continued writing the journals for years after that. She continued using the title, “Mary and Bob’s Journal.”

“October 6, 1987

“Gray – cloudy, misty day. My birthday. It’s been a nice one. Ruth [her sister] took me to Toledo shopping and to Bill Knapp’s for a very nice lunch. . . . received several cards today . . . .”

Happy Birthday, Grandma.


§ 21 Responses to Who are Mary and Bob?

  • Diane Hudson says:

    Gee, this takes me back to thoughts of Bob and Mary and how they came to Charlotte one afternoon just to visit me. I was at work, and they found me at Mary Gene’s Childrens Shop and I heard the door open and I whooped, “Bob, Mary! How did you find me?”

    After a lovely visit they left and it was just a wonderful feeling that they, being my parent’s age, had driven all the way from Morenci just to see me and spend a few minutes with their daughter’s friend.

    And Gramma’s birthday party in 2002, the last one I had with her, meeting you and Ken for the first time, and not knowing that in two months, I too would be a widow just like your Gram.

  • Ruth says:

    Thanks for sharing this, Diane. It sure is nice to have you visiting the blog.

    I’ll do more writing about Grandma.


  • pamajama says:

    Oh my God, this was so incredibly touching.

  • Ken says:

    Very nice Ruth…

    Gotta tell ya, when I read back in their journal I found regret… When they came down for my high school graduation Grandpa writes about the hours of my coming and going and there were not just hours with them….

    Your reading of their journal has helped me not dwell on my regrets……

  • Ruth says:

    Thanks, Ken. Love you.

  • johndeerebilly says:

    I had breakfast with your mom and dad this Easter morning at church in Morenci. Your grandma sat right in front of us in church from 1995 until her death. As you know, she was a great lady, loved by EVERYONE! Looking forward to reading your blog on a regular basis

  • Ruth says:

    Thanks so much for writing! It’s always great to hear from people who knew Grandma. Thanks for visiting the blog.

  • iamsamiam says:

    What an incredible and beautiful story! Thank-you so much for sharing.

  • Mrs. P says:

    WOW…this is story so cool!

    I too have had the opportunity to read mundane family journals from the late 1800s. Although they were very mundane, they were fascinating and I learned so much about hard work and the importance of family.

    Something that I did get to read were some of the letters passed between various relatives including one which detailed living in Missouri during the Dust bowl and one that was very dear to my heart was a letter my grandmother wrote to my great aunt upon the death of her husband. It was such a beautiful understanding letter that expressed all the wonderful qualities of my grandfather and how he was such a great husband. It was side of him that I never saw, looking through a child’s eyes.

    I am happy that you had this personal moment with your grandma and that you have a part of her with you, through your journal.

  • Mary and my mother share the same birthday – my mum will be 90 next month…spooky I found this today.

    • Ruth says:

      Thank you so much for coming by and sharing a comment here. 90 is a big birthday! I hope you’re all healthy enough to enjoy marking the event together. I know what you mean about spooky … and it’s funny that you mention it related to the date of October 6th … check this out . . . https://roolily.wordpress.com/2011/10/06/we-cant-return-we-can-only-look-behind-from-where-we-came/

      • Wow! So while we celebrate my mother turning 90 your Grandmother would have been turning 100 this year!! I will toast her with my mother’s champagne :-) Have shed a few tears around all this..a bit emotional for other reasons and it’s all a bit of synchronicity! Thanks so much for pointing me to the other post..

        • Ruth says:

          Oh my goodness … I didn’t even “add one” when I read that old post today to think about that fact. Wow.

          I’m so warmed by all of your notes — I can’t thank you enough. I will be with Mary’s sister, Ruth, next weekend — a rare visit, probably my last time seeing her. I would love to describe all of this to her — about your kindness, and your mother’s birthday, and Grandma’s 100th being thought of by far away sweet strangers — but even for the most lucid 93 year-olds, the internet is a bit abstract, isn’t it?

          Thank you. Looking forward to reading your blog.

  • I find it quite amazing that I don’t know you or the people in this post, but it still made me cry.

  • mirrormon says:

    lovely to have read this…no wonder writing is such a way to communicate…these people arnt there anymore, but we are talking about their stories….your grandpa would never have thought that someone sitting in Lahore, Pakistan is reading about him and his wife….getting to know them after they have lived their life and sending peace to their souls.

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