Book of Days November 14 2013, 444 Comments

My Aunt Iva kept a perpetual calendar for most of her 99 years. She noted births, deaths, weddings, travel, and so many of the significant moments that filled her long life. Her own record inspired me to make a Book of Days, a perpetual calendar book designed to be kept from year to year to record those moments of our own.

When we visited my mom & dad in Iowa in August, I came across Pop Steele's personalized 1969 YMCA pocket calendar. He was my great grandfather, and the proud director of the YMCA at the Brooklyn Navy Yard. It looked simple enough: a tiny leather book with his name in gold on the leather cover. A few small lines for each day of the year. The pages of January were filled with simple appointments. Then:

Sunday, February 16: "Marge pass away 2:50 a.m."
Monday 17: "Purchased Flight ticket".
Tuesday 18: "Left for Newark, N.J. Flt 12 United via limosine / Bud [my grandfather Bud] & Fred James met me at airport".
Wednesday 19 (Ash Wednesday): "arranged for Funeral".
Thursday 20: "called several friends, Funeral date & time / snowing"
Friday 21: "Met Captain Bob Steele [my great uncle] at Morristown Hotel / light snow"
Saturday 22: "Marge's Funeral. Boonton, N.J. / many old friends attended. Rockaway & Boonton / helped Bob & Bud shovel / light snow"

I never knew my grandfather's parents. My mom talks about the joy & delight Pop & Mimi brought to her life. But here we are, that week in February when Mimi died. And as far as I can tell my grandfather wasn't there when she died. I read this page and felt like I watched his life change completely.

Along with a few photos, a personalized fountain pen, and some jewelry, these little notes from 44 years ago are what's left for me to know these people, my family. I read these notes and try to see who Carl & Marge Steele - Pop & Mimi - were, how my grandfather felt, how my mom felt, and how families weather these unbearable losses. Without these notes about death and funerals and snowfall and sons and the when and where of it all, I have nothing.

These days, I keep my own Book of Days, with notes just like the ones in Aunt Iva's & Pop's calendars. I'm not always faithful about recording every detail, but I do write things like, "October 2, 2009: Charlotte Willa Campbell-Raw was born at 12:05 p.m." I'm lucky that most of my book is joyous beginnings for now, but there's room for it all. I am happy to have a record, however small, of all of these moments that mean so much to me.