Letter to My Grandfather
March 19, 2013
Today you would have been 95, if we still had you on this earth. But as it turns out, you were only with us 90 and 3/4 years. I miss you. Life goes on and time continues, but when I fully allow myself to dive into the deep abyss of what it is to feel someone's absence, I do not miss you any less than four years ago. I guess this surprises me. We get used to the idea, but maybe we never feel any different.
Today I looked at photographs of you and many were you as a teenager and young man. Of course, this is not the image of you I have in my memories and yet, there you are, with all the expressions that mark you as You, but on a younger face. I see the mischievous smile, like you are crafting some joke or planning shenanigans. Or the countenance of a man reflecting his love of life or joy in the present moment. Or the, "I really don't give a hoot about what people think of me." (I think your word would be different than "hoot"). I see the allure, fascination and pride in your profile as you gaze upon a child or grandchild, as if they are too wondrous a creature to turn your head away and towards the camera.
It is these expressions that reconstruct you in my memory. They are reminders to enjoy life, to not take myself too seriously, to laugh as often as possible, to find the possibility of fun in every situation, to appreciate others, to let go of judgements, to try on a smirk of mirth just to find out how it feels, to wonder about the wonderful, to be iconoclastic in my search for true wisdom, and to spend as much time with my family because they really are some of the best people I have ever met.
Perhaps it is this last thought that is your greatest legacy. Together with Grandmom, you created a clan of people that really do seem to truly enjoy the company of each other. In this ever more fragmented world we have a silver thread that weaves a family together. We can each be who we are and we can still have the comfort of a family's love. How fortunate we are. Even if I do err on the side of rosy-colored notions on this subject I do believe there is still a treasure of truth in it.
Of course, there are a few photographs of you with expressions that I do not know or understand. I ask myself, "What are you thinking? What side of this man did I not know?" Probably, I will never know, but if you were here I might ask you and maybe you would not want to talk about it, preferring to carry that side of you to the grave. Maybe some things are better left that way. Maybe it is a reminder that there are some things we must let go of, a burden not worth carrying any longer.
Today I picked a wildflower, a California Poppy, the state flower and protected by law, illegal to pick. It was one of many in large clumps, and it leaned over the sidewalk from an overgrown yard of a long empty house. I picked it for the hell of it, because it was pretty and it was breaking the law in a harmless way and it made me think of you. I smiled and went in to my guitar lesson where I learned to play Bluegrass for the first time and I imagined what it would be like to hear you play the spoons again with the song I was learning.
I remember one of the last things you said to me with full mental clarity, when it was just me and you, during a moment at my sister's graduation party for which I was back east, before you got sick, you said, "Move back, Kid." That was your style. I guess you missed me too. You are gone, but you are with me. I miss you, I love you.
About the author
This is a very beautiful tribute to a loved one, Kathleen. I'm not ashamed to say that it brought tears to my eyes. Your story is a keepsake for us all to read, again and again.
Thanks Dick, for your comment and for taking the time to read. I am glad you are not ashamed of your tears, where would that leave us as people, if we all were?