Thursday, September 29, 2011

Eternal Autumn

Autumn, my favorite season, refuses to come this year. Almost October, and still the weather in my neck of the woods is warm, muggy, rainy. The trees are all green. And there it is.

Yesterday was my grandfather's birthday. He would have been 102. There was no chill in the air. I might have forgotten had my mother not reminded me. Where are the leaves this year?

Here are a few more words on the subject: one of my first posts and one of my favorites. Call it a summary. Perhaps it is enough. - Cricket


My grandfather lives in eternal autumn. He is leaves crunching underfoot. Windfall apples and pears among the grasses. Orange and yellow and red and brown. The golden light of the October sun.

I sit on his lap reading Longfellow from a marble-bound volume. This is the forest primeval. The whispering pines and the hemlocks. He is sandpaper cheeks. Old Spice and Lectric Shave. Horn-rimmed glasses. A favored pink shirt. A four-colored pen. His eyes are blue. His hair still blond. His hand is strong. His touch is gentle. His teeth are all his own.

We kneel together in flickering shadows. He is frankincense and candle wax. Wood worn smooth and lemon oil. Fish on Friday and Saturday Night Suppers. Paternosters and Ave Marias. A well-thumbed missal in Bible-black leather. Sanctus, Sanctus, Dominus Deus. He is a firm handshake. A sturdy hymn. A tweed overcoat and matching hat. Ite, missa est. Deo Gratias.

I watch him tend his garden. He is tomato vines and butter-beans. Summer squash and sugar snaps. Petunias, hydrangeas and geraniums. Tiger Lily and Butterfly Bush. From out of the earth he has called them. He calls each one by name.

By a soft light on the porch he sits. I hear the whispered rustle of his paper. The kitchen is bright with activity. Nana gossips and chides, directs and instructs. We are running water and clattering silverware. The percolator coughs and sputters. I stack the dishes one by one. We chatter and tidy. We laugh out loud. What does he make of us?

I half-carry him to his favorite chair. He is scars and bones. His skin is translucent. His eyes are clear. His face is set. His smile is thin. I set out soup and sandwiches. We pretend he is not dying.

He lived the life he chose. This was the epitaph my great-uncle gave my grandfather. He lived the life he chose. I had never met him before. I never saw him again. But clearly the two men were brothers. Their eyes were clear and blue. They did not waste a word. They lived the lives they chose.

I loved my grandfather and he loved me. I knew him as well as any boy of 15 knows a man of 72, which is to say, not very. But we made the most of the time we had, and that is enough. He was bear-hugs and still waters. He was a warm spot by the kitchen pot-belly. He was Poor Richard's Almanack. He laughed with his eyes. He lived the life he chose.

No one ever really dies, of course. The people we have loved do not pass away, they pass within, for truly love never fails. My grandfather is beyond time now. He is everywhere he ever was. He is places he had never been, and all at once. He lives in my father. He lives in my heart. He lives in my son who bears his name. And he lives in eternal autumn. That is enough.

Respectfully Yours,



Jeni said...

It would seem you and I both got hit by the "waxing sentimental" bug this week with memories of our respective grandfathers. Mine would have been 137 this past Monday. He died 54 years ago when I was twelve but he does live on in my mind, in many wonderful memories of him, of the incredible man he was and things he instilled in me that I hope I have passed on to my children and am trying to impart now in my grandchildren too. One of those would be his love of reading -and with that, of history. My daughters and I have the love of reading and two of my grandchildren appear to be picking up on that as well. I hope the love of history also comes through to them -eventually.
Beautiful post!

CiCi said...

You had me in tears at the sitting on your grandfather's lap reading LONGFELLOW. I wonder if any of my grandparents would have know who that was. And three grandparents were dead by my eighth birthday and a few years later my mom's mom went too. She lived in ND and I lived in CA so I didn't see her anyway. Well, this is a whiny comment.
Let me close with a heads up to your remembrances of your grandfather. They fill a place in my heart that was void. Thank you.

Cricket said...

Jeni - Thank you

Techno -

It is as it was. I don't remember learning to read. I spent my earliest years on a college campus where my father was teaching. There was little else to do.

We moved to Boston just before my fifth birthday. For my parents, it was coming home. My grandfather had an antique library chair in his den. He would sit me on his lap and have me read Longfellow. It amused him. For him, it was always The Song Of Hiawatha.

Invariably, my grandmother would call from the kitchen for me to read her Evangeline. I have misquoted it here: they are the murmuring pines and the hemlocks, of course. I noticed as I copied this for the repost, but I left it as I wrote it.

This became a refrain for us. There was a stretch of wooded road we used to drive regularly, on the way to one or another of her appointments. As we passed, she would say "This is the forest primeval" and I would answer "the murmuring pines and the hemlocks."

silly rabbit said...

I think this is one of the best of your posts.
I see much of what you say about him in you, through your words here and in other writings.
"The people we love do not pass away, they pass within, for love truly never fails." How true! Very beautifully said.

CiCi said...

From my viewpoint, your childhood and the people in your life were supportive and encouraging and thought provoking. So many children never know that until they are adults.

ds said...

This is beautiful...I have been thinking of my grandfather, too...
Thank you for sharing.

Jayne said...

Cricket- This is just beautiful. My father died on this day (October 1) eleven years ago. He loved Longfellow, too. This lush and literate piece is exactly how I feel about my dad. Our loved ones live on in our hearts and those of our children. They are "beyond time" indeed.

Fall has always been my favorite season. My father's death doesn't change that. It heightens my awareness of its beauty and meaning.

Thank you for sharing this beautiful writing.

Hilary said...

Beautiful writing, my friend. It can't possibly be any better than living the lives we chose.

Pearl said...

A truly beautiful piece of writing. Makes me miss my own grandfather.


Suldog said...

One of my favorites of your past postings, as you know. We were both blessed with wonderful grandparents, my swell pal. Very well done.

lime said...

i do recall reading this when you started blogging. it touched me then and touches me now. it's a beautiful, golden and warm tribute, like the sun of an indian summer day warming your cheeks as you look up through the brightly colored leaves. thank you for sharing it once again.

Bossy Betty said...

Gorgeous, Cricket. Just gorgeous. Such solid, beautiful writing that depicts a solid, beautiful relationship.

TexWisGirl said...

how very beautiful! congrats on your POTW.

molly said...

Beautiful writing! Everyone should have a Grandpa like that. One of mine died before I was born,the other when I was four. But I can imagine....! This piece reminds me of something we did a few years ago called "Where We're From." You can read several of them by clicking on them on my side bar. I think maybe it's time to suggest it to people who weren't around back then......

Slamdunk said...

Great post, and I am glad that you have the memories.

The time with my grandfather and the lessons that he tried to teach me even though I was young, are still vivid for me as well.

Kerry said...

My grandfathers' memories are not as clear as yours. I wish that they were. Soon I will be a grandparent, though, and I know what you say is true.