October 11, 1917 – December 30, 2014
Once upon a time, there was a October boy, who believed he could do whatever he set his mind to. He was a giant in my mind, conquering the world with every step, assured in his heart. His hands fashioned love for us out of wood and gave it to us with ticking clocks to remind us that hope is something you measure moment by moment.
Once upon a time, there was a July girl, a practical woman, loved by a poet who taught me to look for the love story. There is always a love story, he said with more than his words, and even though he’s gone, his love story echoes in our hearts, and we will tell our children about…
Fast cars with big engines. He told my mom before he died that he’s like very much to drive her car. Wooo-weee! He said, smiling like he did when he remembered the cars he drove.
We’ll tell our children about rides behind the seat of the El Camino. My cousin and I rode back there, thrilling with joy at the smell of the sun-baked seats and Granddaddy’s aftershave.
About pancakes on Saturday mornings. Does Uncle Rick still hold the record?
About the smell of his woodshop when we wandered out of the house and into the magical space where he made art with lathes and clamps and glue.
We’ll tell our children about walking dark halls of Handley church holding hands with him while we turned off lights and locked doors – – and sometimes finding that abandoned donut in the adult Sunday school classroom.
About sound booths and mints, butter cookies – one for each finger – And watching movies in the living room while Grandmama read in her chair. He let me watch Whatever Happened to Baby Jane when I was about 10. I still treasure that horrible movie, as it was our secret, and we giggled a little over the pure badness of it.
We’ll tell our children about butter pecan ice cream any time of night or day, and Hope chests and frostees, stories of Tinian Island, mysterious miscellaneous rooms, using Granddaddy’s postman hat for pretending we were on safari, weddings and babies, military stations and letters mailed back to our home base that would always be there – that little house on Van Natta.
I miss them both, but I’ve learned: even if you gather up the folds of life in both hands and grip hard, so as not to let it slip away, it still softly slides from between your fingers and your left with just the memory of life’s satin…. my fingers never felt so rough.
I’ve learned that death is just another stop and start, and that words aren’t usually adequate to describe those matters of the heart that change your being, but that they are enough to whisper the memories back to you on darker days.
I’ve learned that in the end, what’s left is our stories. And maybe the most important thing we can do is hear each other’s stories and hold those stories safe within us.
I’ve learned that a broken heart is only 1 part internal…the other 2 parts are in that space where they used to be. That is, all around us, under us, and in the wind, in the shutting doors.
Granddaddy was my hero, my dragon slayer, my storyteller and hand holder, my carpenter poet in love with my Grandmama and with fast cars. His love story includes each of us, and, as we navigate our own paths in life, the love story continues, reminding us who we are.
Once upon a time, there was a October boy, who accomplished everything he set his heart on. He will forever be a giant in our minds. His poetry smelled of cedar and wood shavings, of dark rooms and developing fluid, of old spice and of letters written to His Margaret Eloise. He taught us to look for the love story.
A few nights ago, we sat in a quiet room, his breathing filling us almost beyond what we could hold, and we counted his breaths, making a love story between us until they stopped. When we left him, we smoothed back his hair, pressed warm lips against his cool forehead, squeezed his hand and said “I love you times a million.” And our memories give voice to his reply, always the same: “I love you, too, Darlin’.”
In all of this, I smile with my heart because my granddaddy taught me best lesson of all: the love story of our life is this: right now. this very moment, this very hour, this very second. And my moments are grace.