Are You a Keeper of Stories?

Thirty-two years ago on May 19, my Grandmom Munro died in the wee hours of the morning, alone in her hospital bed. At the moment she died, her calico cat Samantha leaped onto my bed, waking me up. Even though Samantha’s behavior was odd for her, it didn’t send off alarm bells. That day also happened to be my step-brother’s wedding day. In the pre-dawn darkness, I lay in bed for a few moments and petted Samantha to calm her down before getting up and jumping into the shower. When the phone rang, I had a head covered in shampoo lather. No good news comes at such an early hour. I clasped a towel to my chest and answered the call, water pooling at my feet. The disembodied voice on the other end of the line said, “I’m sorry.” My knees buckled.

All day I went through the motions of celebrating my brother and sister-in-law’s wedding, feeling as though I were a distant observer, numb. I’ve never seen their photographs but I’m sure I looked like a zombie. Only a few people at the event knew what had happened. If anyone had expressed their condolences, I’m sure I’d have never made it through that day.

Agnes Margaret Virginia Lynch Munro was the first person to hold me after I was born. I was the last family member to be with her before she died. In fact, I gave her permission to stop fighting the cancer which ravaged her body. My throat burned and tears seared my eyes as I whispered, “I’ll be fine” all the while praying it would eventually be true.

I became the keeper of her stories.

I know she graduated from Upper Darby High School at sixteen, captained her high school field hockey team, and rode horseback through west Philadelphia as a young woman. (Hard to believe west Philly was once a place for leisurely riding!) As a senior, she swam laps, played golf, and rarely missed a bridge game with her ladies. Aruba was her favorite vacation spot and a Bloody Mary her favorite cocktail.

Upper Darby Field Hockey team, 1926. Virginia Lynch, center forward (far right, front row).

Upper Darby Field Hockey team, 1926. Virginia Lynch, center forward (seated on right, front row).

I know she raised four children but bore five, a baby boy lost days after birth. By trade, she was a ceramicist and had her own kiln in a ground floor studio in our barn. She taught me how to pour molds, clean greenware, and what paints to use on which projects.

One of our favorite shared activities was riding the train into Philadelphia, eating a gourmet lunch at the Magic Pan or Rusty Scupper, and attending the theater. She had subscriptions to both the Walnut Street and the Forrest. It’s her love of the arts which flows in my blood and whenever one of my kids participates in anything related to the arts, my pleasure doubles, knowing how much joy she’d have felt.

These are my stories and memories, strong and vital to my family. I’m happy I asked so many questions before I lost my grandmother. My one regret? Not recording her voice as she shared her memories with me. I treasure the photographs, mementos, and the cache of tales only I have now.

Whose stories do you hold?

Whose will you hold? Do you know everything you want to or ought to? How will you share them with your family?

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