My grandmother was the first person to teach me the power of the unsaid. One of my first memories of her is in her kitchen cooking, no music, no television.
As powerful a presence as my Nana was, she said very little. She would have tells, like Poker players do, which let us know what she wanted. At the time I thought she was so mean and standoffish. I wanted my grandma to be more open and talk more. I wanted more from her.
In that pain, especially not hearing her voice for 4 years, I remember the minutiae of her: how she smelled, what her bedroom looked like, the color of her kitchen, and what her garden grew.
…and I remember what she didn’t say.
I didn’t hear her talk about her childhood, being married, or raising children. I didn’t hear her talk about what she went through doing all of those things in the racist nexus of Mississippi and Missouri.
What my grandmother, my last loving and living grandmother, gave to me is stability. The ability to present and acknowledge. She showed me how, when I spoke, to measure my words. In measuring my words, I can be a presence not just a body.
I could go to her and know it would be okay, much like when the children of Israel saw the veil over Moses’s face—even when he wouldn’t have the time with God that would grant him the evidence he had indeed been with Him, the people he cared for knew there was still a God to know. From that, they too could know this God and know He existed.
My grandmother showed me that God still existed. Her voice was thunder: distinct and commanding. Exactly what writers can be.
Thank you, Nana.
The sepia color photo is from my new book, WriteLife, to be released in December 2017. It is a picture of my grandmother Aeceal Williams’s front porch in my hometown of St. Louis, Missouri. She was an anchor person in my life, and, in the writing of this book, I did remember how influential she was.