Becky Jo Gesteland
My grandmother wrote people’s names on the backs of photographs while talking on the phone. She lost her way at the Hilldale Shopping Mall, forgetting where she parked her car. She forgot her sons, her grandchildren, herself. My Uncle Ed found the annotated photos when he cleared out her apartment and moved her to the first nursing home. While visiting the third, cousin Wendy and I sang “My Bonnie lies over the ocean, my Bonnie lies over the sea, my Bonnie lies over the ocean, oh bring back my Bonnie to me.” Grandma G sang along.
Body bloating with hormonal changes, my head tells me to get organized, my heart to take a long walk in the mountains, road trip to Torrey, hike up Burro Wash, squeeze myself between the red-rock walls, clamber up a boulder, dig my toes into the sand, and stare up at the enclosing cliffs of the box canyon. Instead I stare at the piece of driftwood I collected last time I was there—with my now ex-husband, with toddlers who couldn’t quite navigate the last big rock, with a dog who’s no longer alive—and close my eyes and imagine the wet-sand smell, the cold-cavern breeze, and the quiet unlike any quiet I experience in my house. Odd how this longing overcomes me. And odd that I haven’t thought of this place in so long. I used to keep track of these things: who went where and when. I used to keep meticulous notes on my calendar.
I love the feeling of my bones slipping into place. The gentle shifts of my vertebrae finding their rightful spot; the dramatic pops of my hips relieving sciatic pain in my legs. The movements are like deep sighs, stress-relieving breaths, letting my body know that I will make it through another day.
About the Author: Becky Jo Gesteland is a professor of English at Weber State University, where she teaches classes in American literature and technical writing. Her previous publications include personal essays (So to Speak, Palaver, Heartland Review West, and Role Reboot); interviews with Geraldine Brooks and Alice Sebold (Weber: The Contemporary West); a cultural analysis of anthropologist Gladys Reichard’s fieldwork with the Navajo (Plateau Journal); and articles on content management, program assessment, and XML (various technical communication books and journals). Becky’s latest project is a personal essay collection titled Unraveling. In her spare time, she indulges in Nordic Noir.