Isaura writes me monthly. I immediately recognize her familiar scrawl on envelopes crushed between issues of the New Yorker and Vanity Fair. Sometimes a card flits out and a sober saint will stare up at me off the hardwood floor. Other times I'll find a $10 bill carefully folded in the note. Always her correspondence conveys news of my parents or brothers or distant cousins.
When we speak, the conversation never alters. She asks me how I'm doing. We quickly move on to work. Then she provides an update about her day and news of our relatives. She worries about how much my long distance charges cost. I inform her that the call is free, but she doesn't understand calling plans that provide unlimited minutes after 8:00 p.m. As we say goodnight, her voice thickens with emotion.
I don't phone her enough, although I think of her often. I'm Isaura's only granddaughter.
Today is her 80th birthday. My last surving grandparent is a fount of valuable information - stories of growing up in the Azores, recipes to exotic Portuguese meals, the answer to the confusing maze of our family tree.
When I call later today, I'll dig through the treasure of her memory and encourage a story about a place long gone and its people long past.