I still have the doll. Drowsy is her name. She isn’t in the best of condition. Her hip juts out in one direction. The string that I used to pull to hear her voice no longer works. It only makes a strange indiscernible sound. What hair she has stands straight up. Her body bears scars of being mended after my brother ripped her apart. But her face hasn’t aged although mine has. I still have her, forty four years later, because she was the last gift I received from my grandmother for Christmas in 1969.
She died forty-four years ago today from internal bleeding after being admitted to the hospital for breaking her hip. It was the eve of Christmas Eve. My last memory of her was waving to her as she entered surgery and knowing then that I would never see her again. She was a strong German matriarch with a soft side that she rarely showed. As a young child, I remember at times being afraid of her – especially after I spilled coffee on my grandfather’s lap on his seventieth birthday. She was a constant in our lives until she was no more. I can only hope that my grandfather, who died the year prior, was waiting for her on the other side.
Hers was the only doll I ever kept. I kept it as a way of remembering her. I kept is as a way of holding onto the times I shared with my grandparents. I was only six when she passed. When I lost her, I lost my last living grandparent and my mother became an orphan. The doll brought me back to a different time. A time when I had grandparents who doted on and looked out for me . They were a safe haven from my parents’ tortured marriage. That safe haven was now gone and I was left to navigate my parent’s troubled relationship on my own.
As an adult, I sometimes wonder what she would think of this adult version of her granddaughter. I know she wasn’t concerned about how I would turn out. At least, that is what she told my mother. She believed my intelligence would carry me through this world. Maybe this is because she saw me doing multiplication at a very young age. Maybe it is because I picked up things quickly. Or maybe it was just a hunch. But still… I wonder. I know she would not have approved of all my life choices. But I also know that, regardless, she would have been there. Just like my mother was. Just like they still are… just from a different location.