Leaving a trace

Typing machine

I bought a third typewriter earlier this year. This new one is a gorgeous matte-black Olympia SM-2 from 1952, purchased on Etsy from Christopher Mullen of Acme Type Machines in the Netherlands. (My other typing machines are a Triumph Tippa 1 and a Cole Steel in need of repair.)

The Olympia sits on my desk in the library, and I try to type a few sentences each day. Here’s an entry from earlier this week:

Monday, Christmas Eve: I made a fresh gingerbread cake, then showered and shaved, dressed, and went out to Whole Foods for salmon and other ingredients for our meal tomorrow. Store was very busy. Home now. Malia and Oliver are baking chocolate chip cookies for Santa. Erin is out for last gift shopping. It is a sunny day, not too cold. I love our land. I finished reading Clarity Win$, by Steve Woodruff. It is a very clever, focused book about developing a clear set of messages, identifying your bullseye customer, and finding focus. Just what i needed at the end of this year as I contemplate the next year of my career and work at Duke.

The next day, I recorded how I walked out on the land, put up a hammock between two trees, and read a book (There, There, by Tommy Orange, a present from Erin).

Long before I became a blogger, my maternal grandfather, Louis Sisco, was using a typewriter on a rolltop desk to record his and Grandma Virginia’s activities in DeKalb, Illinois. My family was living in Idaho in the 1980s, when long-distance phone calls cost, and Grandpa would send the pages to my mother so she could feel at home at every mention of breakfast at Barb City Manor or bingo night at St. Mary Church or visits with Aunt Ginger or one of my cousins.

“One more peek into grandpa’s diary” was typed at the top of each week’s report. My grandfather was a natural born blogger, as Dave would say.

I have a collection of these typewritten pages, and since the Olympia arrived, I’ve been reading them for inspiration, and a connection to my beloved, departed grandparents.

Here’s an entry from one of the diaries. It’s undated, but I believe it is from November 1981.

Friday: It was a steady rain during my walk but I did get home in time to watch the launching of the Columbia. It was such a gloomy day with nothing to do for a change so I started to address a few Christmas cards. We did a little Christmas shopping and then came home to lunch. Judy and Lonnie were here too. This being Thursday means the it is another Bingo night for mother. You guessed it, the report on her return “I almost won”.

That’s a seemingly mundane report, but it means much to me. Grandpa walked each and every morning, very early. He was generous and timely. He loved his children and grandchildren. Grandma religiously played bingo and enjoyed reporting her near-winnings.

I also have a stack of typewritten chronicles from my other grandfather, Francis Zuiker. His letters are essays and travelogues, retyped by my grandmother Clarice with carbon paper so my father and his eight siblings would each get a copy.

An excerpt from The Zuiker Chronicles #31, April 25, 1977 (Park Forest, Illinois), “THE RENEWAL”:

The park around us is a sea of yellow dandelions. The sun is shining, the wind is out of the north and it is cold as well. If that isn’t a contradiction, then consider that Captain Steve Donovan just provided us with a Florida fishing report that is filled with exciting news of trout, mackerel, flounder and sheepshead being hauled in by the dozen by Capt. Steve and his cronies …

In the 1970s and 1980s, these small-just, just-ahead reports connected family across physical distance. Today, my grandparents and other relatives are dead, but their letters connect us across a metaphysical void.

My goal in 2019 is to continue to type, write, journal, blog, and jot every day—to leave a record of my activities and losses and joys and interactions, a trace of my existence that will connect me to my loved ones here and now and in the future.



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