I think the first memory I have of a Christmas tree was at my grandparent’s home. I can’t really recall what my first memory of my grandfather on my mother’s side was, but I do remember he had a happy laugh. But it wouldn’t be accurate to say he was always a happy person.
My parents and grandparents had a “contentious” relationship every so often, and as a kid when things were good then things were really good. And when things were bad we didn’t see much of them until things got good again.
I associate the smell of coffee and pine burning in a fireplace with my grandfather. Both my Dad and Grandpa (mom’s father) had scratchy chins, at least when I was a kid. I only ever saw Grandpa really drunk once that I remember, and that was because he thought we’d bailed on visiting because we were a couple hours late. He cried a little, and said that he was afraid we weren’t coming.
It wasn’t a secret that grandpa was an alcoholic, a lot of men his age and generation were. And the empty Wild Turkey bottles were a reminder that when we weren’t there, Grandpa still drank.
But, for his grandkids he stayed sober, as best he could. And a lot of the dysfunctional habits he got when he was a kid managed to work themselves out, although not totally. As far as I know I’m the only one in my family still on talking terms with everyone else in my family, but I can’t be sure about that cause someone might not be on talking terms with me and never bothered to tell me.
But, this trip down memory lane and subsequent reflection on my family, is due to the passing of my grandfather. He was a stubborn man, in all the good and bad ways that you can be stubborn. His mind started going a few years ago, and he and I would have the same conversation every time I visited. But he got to meet his great grandchildren.
The mighty oak that dares to stretch towards the heavens will eventually fall. Sometimes due to a stroke of lighting. Sometimes due to a rot weakening the trunk so that it cannot hold its own weight. Sometimes to the ax or saw. But no oak stands forever. Although if Grandpa were a tree he’d probably be Douglas Fir or Western Red Cedar, the kind that doesn’t change its branches just because some minor inconvenience called “winter” came along.
I was raised religious, and although I’ve lost the deep certainty of a true zealot in knowing exactly what others need to get right with God, I believe that Einstein really did stumble upon something “divine” with E=mC^2. That famous equation says that energy and mass are inextricably linked, and therefore that all things are linked and essentially indestructible. So as my grandfather passes on from this life, his “energy” is still here in this universe, echoing through eternity. As the laws of thermodynamics tell us that every reaction increases the entropy of the universe as things move to a lower energy state, and so I hope that grandpa is resting now, moving into a deeper slumber as the pain of life, and ravages of time, cease.
When I enlisted grandpa told me to stay out of the booze halls, and I could make something of myself in the service. It was good advice, and while I have done some hard drinking, it never became my life. And I’ll honestly miss having that one conversation with grandpa, how he spent time in the Navy up in Alaska, working on the flight line. Missing someone, is one of their echoes through eternity, the proof their life had some meaning to someone.
We all grieve in our own way, and sometimes an emotion is just to big to feel all of it at once. So you feel a little of it at at time, and eventually, somehow you get to a point where it is dealt with, and you find peace on the other side.