I’ve written about it before. My paternal grandfather’s last day on this earth was May 21st in 2004. That is the same day I was born in 1976.
I didn’t have a normal relationship with my grandparents. Normally, children see their grandparents a few times a year – I saw all four of mine weekly for almost 22 years (when we lost my paternal grandmother). Most children have a vague idea of the lives their grandparents lived before becoming “old” – I walked the steps my grandparents walked as children in their respective cities. I took road trips with all of my grandparents traveling to Hutchins or Port Aransas or Virginia. I soaked up every piece of wisdom, every note of a song danced under the moonlight, every bite of an old family recipe. When my son’s delivery date was chosen, it was only fitting that it was my maternal grandfather’s birthday. No one has had four such grandparents and no superlative I could use does them the justice they deserve. I think of each grandparent almost every day, sometimes multiple times a day.
On my birthday, I always try to do something to celebrate Pop’s wonderfully rich life. This year, I will drive my 8-month old son to the small town which molded his great grandfather to become a poetry-loving, Pearl Harbor-stationed, family-oriented SMU graduate. Just as Pop and I used to do, we’ll listen to Caruso, and I’ll make it a “perfectly bully” time.
I worry for my son’s lack of a father. When I was three months pregnant, I realized my son would probably be raised without a father’s influence. I worried about this for one year and two weeks. Then I remembered my grandfathers. Pop lost his father when he was a little boy, barely remembering anything about him. His primary male influence was his uncle, whom he always spoke of with childlike adoration. Granddaddy also lost his father during his childhood. He was taught how to be a proper, and I use that term in its full glory and dishonor!, gentleman by his older brothers. They were two of the finest men I will ever know – fatherless at an early age.
What I need to do, just as those folks helping mold little Rowe Jack and little Horace, is keep the fine influences strong. I do this by telling the stories of acts of kindness and gentleness I witnessed from Henry’s great grandfathers, grandfather, and uncle.
And, this year, on the day Pop and I share, I will find a street that bears his name. I will stand my son up, take his little hands in my hands, and “walk” with him down a street which little Rowe Jack’s (both of them) feet walked down years ago. My precious Pop will walk with me and his great grandson where life began for him on the day life ended.
What a beautiful moment for all three of us and how lucky I am to give it to Henry.