While perusing the meager bookshelves at my local thrift store I picked up a blank journal interspersed with Shakespeare quotes and lush illustrations. I’m a sucker for blank notebooks and this one was charming. But as I flipped through the pages I discovered it had been used. About a third of it was filled with scratchy cursive handwriting. Darn! I put the book back on the shelf…and then immediately picked it up again! Wait…here was the chance to read the intimate jottings of a stranger. How could I not buy this?!
Perhaps there is a bit of a voyeur in me. I adore people watching, catching snatches of conversations and reading diaries and journals. So I bought the book (99 cents) and read it with interest. Entries dated from 11/01 to 6/03 and in them I discovered her last name, that she was a lawyer (soon to retire), that her father had died recently and her mother lived in San Diego. Someone named Verlene features prominently (Good friend? Lover?) as does Alex (Younger brother? Son? Nephew?). There is a wedding in Grenada and a drug trial for someone close to her named Clyde.
Then it hit me that this journal probably ended up at the thrift store because she died and her estate was being cleared out. So I googled her last name, plus the words “death” and my city and sure enough her obituary popped up. She died in January. And holy smokes was she accomplished…a lawyer and a doctor in clinical psychology. After her law career, she taught at UCSF, wrote books and articles and won awards. And now I know what she looks like, that Verlene was her beloved partner of 35 years and Alex her beloved son.
Now the question is … what do I do with this journal? Did the family intend to give it away? Maybe her son would like it. So I googled his name and found his Facebook account. I know it’s the right one because one of his cousins (listed in the obit) has a comment on the page…though the account doesn’t look active.
So now I’m debating whether to send Alex a FB message about the journal (hoping not to come off sounding creepy). Seems like the right thing to do. Or do I just keep the journal? Or ??
What would you do?