Yes, I know O does not come before N, but I decided that O and N needed to be switched, for reasons that will be come apparent eventually. Or maybe not. Doesn’t matter – it’s my blog and if I want to re-arrange the alphabet, then so be it Shall we get on with it?
In the Encyclopedia of Me, O is for Oral Histories, and that is mainly because, when I think about my grandfather, who would have been ninety years old today, I mostly remember how he liked to tell stories. And I liked to listen. This picture was taken at my nephew’s 2nd birthday party in the Summer of 2000. That’s my 7-year-old on his lap, who was a plump 5-month-old at the time. My grandfather had a very technical mind and loved to solve puzzles. I remember him sharing his thoughts that day on how to get the water to flow uphill in the moat that Neil wanted to dig around our home. Neil never did dig that moat, but it always amuses me that Grandpa had given so much thought to the logistics of it, even though he surely knew it was not going to happen.
I am having trouble finishing this post. I composed the whole thing – quite eloquently, I might add – in the shower a few days ago, which is where I do some of my best work Somewhere between thinking and typing, words become a completely different animal, charged with more emotion than one might initially have expected, or just not coming together coherently at all.
I had some general observations about the old and the young and storytelling, but I can’t make the words say what I mean, in the non-preachy way that I mean it. I wanted to draw parallels between some of my grandfather’s interests and my own, and how, in thinking about it, I have realized that I am more like him than I may have realized. He had a whole basement full of things he made – some useful, some just decorative, most made of salvaged materials. Had I been thinking about it when I was last at my parents’ house, I could have illustrated this post with an image of the windmill he made for my mother out of an old metal cigarette ad. He was full of projects like that.
I wanted to talk about how many times I dreamed about him when I was expecting son #2. I wanted so much to name the little guy after him, but there were several reasons why using his name was not practical, so we went a different direction. I spent the first few months of my son’s life with a feeling of his familiarity. Now he just looks like himself to me, but initially I felt like someone else was looking at me through his eyes. When we dug up a photo of my grandfather from his babyhood, I knew where I’d seen my guy’s eyes (and much of his face!) before. For fun last year I “aged” son #2 on a website whose address I now forget, and it was uncanny how much he, as an old man, looked like my grandfather.
I wanted to talk about the memoirs he wrote, which I found fascinating, entertaining, and funny. I could hear his voice as I read them. When I discovered he had been writing down some of his stories, I emailed him and asked for a copy, which he gladly sent along. [As an aside, how cool was it that I could email my grandfather?! Six years ago, How many thirty-year-olds could have said that their grandparents were online?] Those memoirs arrived in my inbox just a few months before he died, and I read them during the weeks leading up to his passing. I haven’t looked at them since, but I keep them in a safe place. I hope that my own kids will find it interesting to read some anecdotal family history some day, even if one of them never knew him and the other one was only a year-and-a-half when he died.
O is for Oral Histories (which, I realize is stretching it, but coming up with another O word for this wasn’t easy…)
This post almost didn’t happen. If the weather had been cooperating, I’d have spent this morning getting ready for the boys’ water party, the afternoon having the party, and the evening recovering from it. I’d likely have gone with the much easier “O is for Open Windows” post, and chatted lightheartedly about how much I enjoy feeling a breeze coming into the house or the car, even though I’m not much of an outdoorsey person. I’m glad I was unexpectedly presented with the time to go a bit deeper. Even though I really do love open windows.