I lost a book. I actually lost it quite a while ago now, probably seven or eight years.
The thought that I had lost it was so sad and devastating to me that I tried not to think about it. What’s done is done, I said. There’s nothing I can do, I (tried) to accept.
I was thinking, lately, about this heartwarming story I read about a pay envelope that had been left at a pub, and how, through Twitter, it’s rightful owner was found and his pay thankfully returned intact. I thought, maybe Twitter has seen my book?
In case you don’t feel like reading about how I came to have the book and how I lost it, I’ll get the description out here first thing. The book is called “Sea Glass”, written by Anita Shreve, and it is inscribed on the inside front page “Nichole, write is a verb” and signed by the author. (I think it might say “Nicole”, no one ever gets that right, I go by either)
It was my most prized possession, I’ve mentioned it before.
Gram and I read “The Pilot’s Wife” when it became a popular Oprah book club book. It was so good that we set out to read all the other Anita Shreve books. We passed them back and forth between us. “Fortunes Rocks” has always been my favorite of all. And I did read them all. When I order books I always check for a new one, and if there is one I order it or pre-order it. Pat Conroy is my favorite for what he taught me about writing dialogue and using your life as material, but Anita Shreve is my favorite for the emotions her stories invoke.
I met the woman who would become the biggest champion of my writing, and my writing mentor, at work. I was her boss, she was my mentor. We, both considering ourselves writers, talked writing and books and authors all the time. She knew how much I liked Anita Shreve and so, when she got the opportunity to attend a reading and book signing that night, through a local radio station, she asked if I wanted to give her something to sign.
This was back in the days before cell phones and work from home. I always kept a book in my car for the time I spent sitting at the exit ramps, waiting to get on the freeway one car at a time.
It was a stroke of luck that the book I had just finished reading was Anita Shreve’s “Sea Glass”. I gave her my book, and she returned it with the inscription above.
“I told her that you are an excellent writer, but that you are also a single mom with a full time job and you struggle to find time to write,” Lisa explained.
The inscription felt very personal to me. A note of encouragement from one of my favorite authors!!!!!!
Gram, at that time, was just starting to lose her wits. She had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, but she was still living at home, my grandpa looking out for her.
I told her I had read the new Anita Shreve book and asked if she wanted to read it and of course she did. I wasn’t sure if she COULD still read, but I wasn’t about to say no to Gram for anything she wanted.
“This is a very special book,” I explained, making sure Grandpa heard me too, “so take good care of it, and I want this one back.”
In the old days, that’s exactly what would have happened.
But instead what happened was that Gram put some bacon on the stove to fry and forgot about it. A paper towel, held by a magnet on the side of the fridge, containing a drawing Bunny had done when she was little, of a “Love Bunny”, started the fire. Grandpa, being hard of hearing and watching a baseball game at high volume in the back bedroom, didn’t know anything was wrong until the smoke reached him. He couldn’t hear the smoke detector.
No one was hurt, everything was smoke damaged, and there was a lot of cleanup and sorting and getting rid of stuff. I wasn’t there. My book went to the goodwill. Or maybe the garbage, no one knows, really. It is definitely not there anymore, that is all I know for sure.
Gram deteriorated slowly and sadly until she didn’t know any of us and never talked, and her body forgot how to do everything along with her brain. I miss her every day.
Lisa had a blood clot in her lung, couldn’t breathe, called 911 and then asphyxiated before the paramedics arrived. It was too much time without oxygen for her amazing brain and I held her hand when they removed the vent tubes and her body went silent. I pressed my cheek to hers and told her how sorry I was that this had happened to her.
The next fall I went to the writing retreat Lisa and I had attended every fall together, alone. I haven’t gone back since even though I know she would want me to. It was too painful.
I really wish I had that book. I know it’s a material thing, and it shouldn’t matter. It’s just that it is attached to two pieces of my heart, and I feel it’s absence as much as I feel theirs.
Have you seen my book?
(Thanks for checking)