When I finished reading the letter I swallowed hard, and wiped the tears from my eyes with a lace handkerchief. I laid the letter on the table in front of me. My daughter looked at me with tears in her eyes, too, taking my hand in hers.
“Etta, do you remember Grandma?”
She nodded, squeezing my hand to comfort me. “Yes. I remember her. You tried unsuccessfully to convince her not go to California. You attempted to impress upon her how dangerous it would be to not only travel across country alone, and especially with the Civil War still going on, but she refused to listen.”
“Yes, she had a stubborn streak,” I said, with a slight smile.
I looked down at the letter again rereading it to myself trying to make sense of what I’ve learned since I walked home. In three weeks’ time both my beloved husband and grandmother were gone.
My son seemed unconcerned by the things he’d heard, which is understandable considering he was only 4 years old when Grandma moved to California and more than likely had very few, if any, memories of her.
“Have you decided what you’re going to do, Mom?” he asked.
I didn’t answer right away, but I’m sure the look on my face told Etta that I’d already given some thought to what my decision would be as a result of my long walk home from the cemetery.
Harry Jr. quickly noticed the intense glances between Etta and I. “You can’t leave us here by ourselves! I’ve got school and my friends, and Etta can’t take care of us because she’s too busy taking care of the baby!”
“Harry, calm down. First things first. I need to reply to Mr. Martinez’s letter. Then I’ll make some phone calls to your great-aunts and uncles. I’ll tell them about Grandma, and see which one of them would be willing and able to take care of you, and help Etta with the baby while I’m away.”
My words now had my son’s undivided attention.
“You’re not taking us with you? If you leave now, you’ll miss Thanksgiving and Christmas!”
“Harry, I wouldn’t think of leaving with the holidays so close. The boardinghouse will still be standing when I get there, and I have many things to do before I can even think about leaving. Rest assured, it will be a long while before that day comes. However when that day comes, I still won’t be able to take you with me. Mr. Martinez made it very clear about the current condition of the boardinghouse, so I’m not even sure where I’ll be staying. But as soon as I’m settled, I’ll send for you.”