Part II: Journeys (Chapter 38)


“When I die, burn my letters and diaries,” Nana says. “And don’t read them.”

The red creeps upward from my neck to my face.

Over the years, I have dipped into her personal papers.

I know. I shouldn’t have done it.

But there are so many gaps, so many secrets kept in this family. It’s not like she has kept her papers hidden away – they always seem to be out in the open, tantalizing like forbidden sweets kept on the coffee table, in full view of a two-year-old kid.

Shel pulls the Jetta into a parking space, next to Phil and Sal’s van. He and I jump out of the car and rush to Nana’s door. Sal is already wheeling the chair toward the car.

I’m not sure why Nana’s so worried; even after all my prying, I have yet to find the kingpin that keeps the secrets locked up. Most of what Nana has written in her diaries is mind-numbingly mundane, a painstaking record of ordinary life. Yet I know the secrets are there, perhaps in an O’Toole code.

“You hear me, Samantha?”

“Yes, Nana. I’m supposed to burn your papers.”

“I don’t want no one to read all that silly stuff.”

Shel opens Nana’s door; Nana takes his hand.

“Perhaps you could spend the next few months sorting out the important family information,” Shel says as he helps her turn toward the open door.

She plants her feet on the ground.

“Family history can be an important documentation for heirs.”

Nana shuffles sideways in the car seat. “Naw. Nothing there worth keeping. Just get rid of it. All of it.”


“You hear me?” Nana says, not taking her eyes off me

Sheldon waits to help her into the wheelchair.

“Yes,” I say, looking away, the redness in my face stinging me like pricks from a rose thorn.

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