Memories Aren’t Always Misty Colored Or Missy

It is heading towards the midnight hour and I am sitting here with the dog, some whiskey and Ray Charles. Ray and the whiskey and I are old friends who have spent many hours getting to know each other. We have become fine friends who can sit comfortably in silence or engage in philosophical discussions about anything. The dog is a newcomer to this gathering. He is all of 13 months so we are doing our best to educate him about life and his role.

He has been given the task of filling the large paws left by one of the greatest friends I have ever had and someone I still miss.

A Stalwart Companion

Though life may continue with or without us as long as we take a moment to share our memories death cannot completely rob us of those we love. I suppose that it is only fitting that while I write this the Wedding Celebration And The Bottle Dance from the Fiddler on The Roof soundtrack is playing.

Earlier today my son asked me to tell him stories about my great grandfathers and I had to tell him that I only knew one of them. My zayde left Vilna and came to the states about 1900 or so. He died when I was seven. In a couple of months it will be 35 years since he died and though I have quite a few memories they aren’t as crisp or as many as I would like. I know that his children called him Pa as did many of his grandchildren. I know that he always had a cigar in his pocket and that he had a drink every night with his dinner.

My grandfather used to tell stories about him, the six foot tall Blond and blue eyed Jewish tailor who used to fight with the police. He was a tough guy my great grandfather. He stood shoulder to shoulder with other men and helped to fight for worker’s rights. Today we sometimes hear people sneer about unions and accuse them of being self serving entities that are bad for business. But in my zayde’s time workers had relatively few, if any rights. My grandfather said that once his dad got a reputation for organizing strikes it became harder for him to find work. Sometimes he would have two or three jobs in a week, not by choice but because the owners didn’t want a troublemaker working there.

I was sad to tell my son that I know far less about my other great grandfathers, they all died before I was born. My father’s mother was the youngest of eleven children. Her father was born not long after the Civil War and died in the thirties. My mother’s grandfathers both died while she was in high school.  So while I know things about all three the stories are less real to me, I never met them.

Sometimes I think about what it might be like to be 80 or 100 years old. I wonder what life will look like and what kind of physical condition I am going to be in. I wonder if I’ll live long enough to see great grandchildren and what sort of stories they’ll hear. I wonder what sort of stories will be told and what kind of impression I will leave. It is probably fair to say that there is some ego involved in that, but it is also true to say that I want to make a difference. I want to live a life of purpose and meaning.

I am not a saint nor have I ever tried to be. I am a man with many faults. You can call that opportunity for growth if you’d like. I look at myself far more critically and honestly than I sometimes share in the blog, but it is because my job as a father is to help guide the children. If I am going to do that I need to have some awareness of what I do that is good and what  I do that is not.

While there is  more to say it seems that the dog has decided that he has had enough reflection and is ready to go for a walk. It is not a bad idea so I’ll wrap this up for now. Be well and I will see you sometime, maybe sooner than you think.

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  1. Twenty Four At Heart March 5, 2011 at 7:11 pm

    Love the dog photo … as I sit here with my golden at my feet. : )
    How have you been Jack? : )

  2. Abby March 5, 2011 at 7:36 am

    While I may only be 29, I am an old soul at my core. Part of this understanding comes from the connection that I have with my 86-year-old grandma. I’ve written about her many times, as she’s someone that everyone should know. Nuts, unapologetic and now vulnerable to the passing of time. But she has given me a sense of self, of peace with the unknown as long as you enjoy and appreciate “the known.”

    My mom is there each day, baking for the nurses and cleaning up her room. My grandma hums and sings in Polish. I observe, I help, I soak it all in. I will have the stories of the days that were forgotten by the others too busy to care, the reflections making me what I am and what I hope to be. She’s not a saint–good lord, far from it–but she’s made us what we are. I love that you share that with your son, and, well, that you love animals as well (as I like animals more than I like most people.)

    Sorry for the ramble, but you kind of hit on something I wish more people appreciated, something your son will now grow to value. Very cool.

    • Jack March 5, 2011 at 12:25 pm

      I think that part of being a writer is being interested in the world around us. That interest can take many forms, but some of my favorites are people. Obviously grandparents are very important to me, they tell tales that others cannot and I think that there is much to be learned from those stories, or at least I hope so. 😉

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