Sunday, May 10, 2015

Links to the Past

Mom and Grandma
I love to read. My mother taught me a love for books. She too loved to read, and her example brought into my life the joys of reading. My grandmother taught her daughter, my mother, to have a love for books. I spent some time at my grandparent’s home, and my grandmother had a favorite chair, across from my grandfather’s favorite chair. Next to her preferred seat was a table, filled with books – mainly westerns. Yes, my grandmother loved to watch Gunsmoke, and read Louis L’Amour westerns.  I also learned that her favorite character from those books was William Tell Sackett. (Grandma also loved to play ball, when the family played baseball and she was up to bat, the outfielders moved further back, she could hit far. I had a real cool grandmother.)

I worked late the other night. When I got home everyone was in bed. I wasn’t sleepy, and I knew if I crawled into bed I’d toss and turn until I got comfortable, but in so doing would disturb my wife’s rest. So I opted to take some time to read. Since things have been hectic lately I haven’t gotten involved with a novel, or a trilogy, I’ve been reading short stories. The collected short stories of Louis L’Amour. As I was reading the next story in the collection I realized that the character was Tell. When I finished the story, I remembered my grandmother and her collection of L’Amour westerns.

My grandmother had written a short autobiography, about 30 pages is all. I remember she had written that one of her most favorite parts of the day was when everyone had gone to bed and she was the only one awake in the house. I smiled to myself as I recalled her words. I was the only one awake in the house, and I had just finished reading a short story western about William Tell Sackett, one of my grandmother’s favorite characters. I felt close to her at that moment. A solitary moment late at night while my family slumbered peacefully I understood the words my grandmother had shared, and why she liked those silent moments of solitude in a house full of sleeping loved ones. Suddenly I felt a kinship with her.

If she hadn’t of written it down I would have missed it. She never told me those thoughts, but she had expressed them in her short paper on her life. It is full of tidbits and memories about her.

Then I got to thinking about other things I have in common with my grandmother. My own mother and one of my sons. I fit between them. True I am her son and a father to my son, but my son and mother have something in common: they both survived a car accident, my mother lost a leg, and my son lost part of his foot.

Grandma had to deal with helping my mother recover from her auto accident. My mother lost her leg at 17, a life changing event to say the least. I grew up with that as normal. I didn’t realize that other people’s mothers didn’t have to put their leg on in the morning as part of getting ready for the day.

So when my four-year-old son lost part of his foot, I understood what I needed to do to help him, because I had watched and learned from my own mother. However, that night sitting in my chair thinking about my grandmother I discovered that we shared a similar experience. Dealing with a child who had been critically injured in an accident and their life would be forever changed because of it.

In my grandmother’s writing she also mentioned that she missed Tommy. She lost her son when he was eight years old. He had drowned. Growing up I was fascinated with Tommy. My aunts would tell stories about him, and they would laugh at the happy memories. I too lost a son. He was eighteen when he died. So when I read the words my grandmother wrote about losing her son, and the feelings she had, and missing him, and thinking about him – I understood. However, I didn’t lose my son until after grandma passed away. So I didn’t get to compare notes with her. I just have her writing about her own reflections on her own pain of losing a son.

I closed the book, thought about grandma, realized how much we now have in common and gratefully retired to my bed feeling closer to both my grandmother and mother.

Mom taught me a lot. She shared much of what she learned from her mother with me. I felt the kinship during those waking hours late that night. So though both mom and grandma have passed on, I wish them both a Happy Mother’s Day 2015.