“He looks so jolly,” I said to my mom. We were looking through a small heap of old photos that I hadn’t seen before.
“I was always a little afraid of him,” I said.
“He seemed so . . . gruff.”
I was seven years old, still a little girl, when my grandfather died. He had battled emphysema. That would probably make anyone gruff.
“He was funny as all heck,” my mother said.
We came across a letter he had written to his brother Fred when both of them were ill. Ten days after writing the letter, my grandfather died. Six weeks more and his brother followed him.
Still, the letter was funny.
My mom had almost thrown it away. It had been ripped into pieces, then taped back together.
My grandfather wrote that he had lost twenty-five pounds. “I have a lot of unemployed skin,” he said. “Some days I look in the mirror and think I am shaving the Holy Ghost.”
“The tune I have been humming is, ‘Yes sir, asthma baby!’”
And so on.
I had heard stories about my grandfather’s principles, his self-discipline, his inventiveness. But I didn’t know about this side of him.
A couple of pictures and a handful of words. That’s all it takes to change an idea. It may be that my idea of who my grandfather was, of where and who I came from, is no more accurate than the one I had before. I have a tendency to make things up. But I feel like I just met someone I like, and – bonus — he’s related to me.
(I felt the same way about these two ladies: two of my great-grandmothers.)