Friday, January 30, 2015

On the 97th anniversary of his birth.

My Gramp (January 30, 1918 - January 6, 2003)

When I remember him, this is who I see. Rugged, square-jawed, Marlboro-Man-esque. His hair, under that straw hat, was slicked straight back, just as it always was -- I know that even without being able to see it.

I remember that his favorite bird was the cardinal. I know this, not because he ever outright said it, but because, he -- a man of as few words as necessary -- would always take the time to point one out to me.

I remember that his second favorite bird was the robin. I know this, because the return of Robin Redbreast -- he always called them Robin Redbreast --meant that spring was nearing, and soon, soon, he would be back in his element, working the soil and encouraging delicious produce to grow from it.

I remember that he taught me the value of comfortable silence, that not every quiet space in time needed to be filled with words. It's ok to just be, quietly, because you can see more when your mouth isn't moving.

I remember that he also taught me the value of those who wait to speak until they actually have something to say. Perhaps that's why I so often dread "small talk." If I'm talking about the weather, it isn't social filler for me; I actually have something to say about it -- an observation, legitimate commentary, whatever.

I remember that, instead of talking about what he was going to do, he *did* it. You *might* get a brief announcement: "I'm going to pull the weeds" ... as he was pulling the door closed behind himself and heading toward his gardens.

I remember his laugh. It remains one of my favorite sounds of all time.

I remember that his favorite dessert was my Gram's homemade apple pie, so fresh that it was still oven-warm, with a slice (or three) of Monterey Jack cheese. But on his birthday, she would make him a Boston Cream Pie "because that's his favorite." That always confused me, but I trust she knew her husband.

I know that I share some of his personality. That I will size you up, quietly and thoughtfully, while I decide whether or not to engage. That the more silent I become -- and trust me when I say that there is a world of difference between "quiet" and "silent" -- the more displeasure I am conveying. That you can learn a lot about what's taking place inside my head *if* you can learn to read my eyes, the set of my jaw, and my facial expressions.

(How about those puffy Reebok hightops with the two narrow Velcro strips at the ankle? And those shorts that make me choke on a snort-chuckle? Oh, 1988, you were not my friend. We are going to just pretend we don't notice that hair or those glasses, though, ok? Because, good Lord, hold me...those unforgivingly awkward pre-teen years.)

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