Thursday, January 31, 2013

100 Years

On Saturday my grandfather would be 100 if he were still living.  I've struggled to write a fitting tribute to the man I found somewhat inscrutable when I was a child but who I came to realize understood me very well because he was the only adult in my life who suffered similar childhood losses to mine and worse.  He was unschooled but one of the most intelligent men I've ever known.  He loved books and the power of words as well. In the Navy he found a sense of competence and purpose and belonging, feelings I believe he had experienced all to rarely in spite of his wide range of abilities and his sincere kindness.  He loved his family quietly, steadily, and sacrificially...even if it was imperfect by his own rendering...even when those he loved rejected him. When I was a young child I didn't always understand his gentle teasing (truly nothing mean-spirited) was an expression of affection.  My grandmother always said he teased the ones he loved and if the day came that he stopped then I should worry.  When I was older and depression stole his humor I understood what she meant.  He died by his own hand just four months after my grandmother passed.  He was 78.  I still feel his absence but I give thanks for his presence and influence in my life. Today I share something I wrote five years ago in his memory using this poem template.

I am from Raymond

I am from the cause of a shotgun wedding, whose parents divorced by the time he was 2, in an age and a place where both of those things covered a child in shame.

From the boy whose mother died when he was 13 and whose stepmother drove him away from his father's house.

From wanting a red-haired daughter to name for the grandmother who took him in and taught him to sew and to cook, from naming a son for the uncle who later took him in and taught him mechanics and how to be a man.

I am from dropping out of school so he could support family during the Depression but being a voracious reader and having more sense than many men with PhDs.

I am from hoes and Burpee seeds, from a workshop where every tool was shined and placed back on the peg board in its particular outline and baby food jars of nuts, screws, nails, and bolts were lined up and labelled in meticulous order. I am from Mason canning jars and a stock of jellies, jams, and chow-chow. I am from a heavy Singer sewing machine and finer embroidery than many women can produce.

I am from rounding up excess barn kittens to be drowned but naming the ones spared and sharing a sandwich with them.

I am from faith that makes sacrifice, from true religion that takes care of widows and orphans, from tear-streaked cheeks during 'How Great Thou Art.'

I am from the tiny brick house purchased for $8450 in 1946. From the front porch with the English hapenny pressed into the wet concrete.

I am from the German man who cussed a blue streak in Italian and who went white when a ten year old granddaughter repeated the torrent of profanity. From threats to "cloud up and rain all over you" if the kids misbehaved. From not putting off until tomorrow what can be done today and always keeping your word.

From "If clothes make the man, I am a poor measure of a man." From wearing uniform shirts until they were threadbare and still having a stack of 12 new shirts in the closet on the day he died even though he'd been retired at least 10 years. From gleefully wearing a striped tie with plaid pants to church and cutting hair crew cut short after his wife died "because she's not here to holler at me about it" then weeping...because she was no longer there to holler about it.

I am from raucous laughter over pranks and jokes, from anonymous acts of charitable generosity, from softly spoken words of wisdom, and from soul crushing depression.

I am from headstones scattered through several cemeteries and solemn field trips to them when family lore was handed down as we stood over the graves. I am from a yellowed love letter with a three page poem and Western Union telegrams at the end of the war. I am from a tattered Japanese flag that transformed a peaceful countenance to one of rage.

I am from the man who claimed he was a stern father who lost his temper too easily, who said he was a poor husband who caused his wife too much sorrow, who in his last years wept easily over what his sons had done to their wives and children.

And though my 3 cousins would not acknowledge him while he lived due to perceived slights and the bitterness of their mother,

I will stand without shame,

and proclaim with pride,

I am

from Raymond.


silly rabbit said...

That was powerful. It stirred the cobwebs of memories in my own life. You have the gift of truly loving, despite flaws and a solid sense of family. You are blessed.

G-Man said...

You are such a Rebel!
Great story Limey...Loved the Pic!
Told with Trini Tenderness..:-)

Bijoux said...

Nice! I like the way you told this. I've been meaning to write my next grandparent post, but I never feel as though I have the time to do it justice.

Bijoux said...

Actually, I shouldn't have used the term "nice" because it's a sad story in many respects. I just really liked your storytelling.

Leave It To Davis said...

I would be willing to bet that he and your grandmother are holding each other and smiling with pride as they look down from Heaven. This was a beautifully told story of his life. Any grandparent would be honored to have their grandchild feel this way, whether during life or afterlife.

Commander Zaius said...

Awesome tribute is all I can say.

Craig said...

Wonderful; simply wonderful.

I've known a few of those 'brilliant but uneducated' folks in my day. God bless you for being wise enough to pay attention. . .

At least he got a red-haired great-granddaughter. . .


Yvonne Osborne said...

Beautiful tribute.

Margaret said...

He is what makes America the best place to live.

Daryl said...

i am so deeply touched ..

Craver Vii said...

It is good to be able to remember your grandfather well, like you do. I did not know my maternal grandfather personally, and I have never heard any nice stories about him. I know my children are blessed to have good stories about my wife's dad and my own dad. I hope to be such a grandfather that leaves a good legacy for my own grandchildren.

Hats off to the memory of the inscrutable Raymond, who impressed his granddaughter with hard-earned character. And God bless you, Lime.

Maude Lynn said...

This is so moving!

Kat said...

Wow. You've got me all verklempt.

What an amazing tribute you've given this amazing man. Thank you for sharing him with us.

Hilary said...

What a beautiful and moving tribute to this dear man, M. I have no doubt that the pride went both ways. Lovely writing.

Rob said...

Ironically, I'm from Raymond too. (Raymond, Ohio) That is all... :-)

Wendy said...

Very touching. Congrats on your POTW award! Sounds like grandpa was a wonderful man.

Suldog said...

Beautiful stuff, my friend. God bless him.

photowannabe said...

I am here from Hilary POTW.
I read this with a lump in my throat and misty eyes.
What a powerful tribute.
I like that you can say proudly that you are from Raymond.