He was a difficult, complicated man. In some ways Granddaddy came straight from Central Casting as a pre-WWII Southern white man via Flannery O'Connor and William Faulkner. I don't remember him this way at all, but he knew what was best for himself and everyone around him, and didn't hesitate to express his very powerful will.
At the same time, he loved me with a fierce, iron love one degree removed from cruelty. When there came a time around 1970 that my father took sole custody of my sister and I, Granddaddy moved his bedridden wife to Washington and became the doer of laundry, the packer of lunches and the speaker to children. Looking back on this now, I find it beyond unimaginable. A man who'd been at the center of the unspoken, fully entitled cloud of white, male privilege all his life was packing my tights for my ballet class.
My direct memories of him don't jibe very well with the stories I hear. I know I was something very special to him, and that the difficult face he presented to the world softened in my presence. There's a painting here at Nuevo Rancho Lake, done in those early years of my life by tillyjane, of he and I seen from behind walking hand in hand. I'm very small, in red overalls, pulling away from his straight-backed intensity. Some things never have changed, I guess.
We went to the cemetery to visit their graves, the_child, lasirenadolce and I. On the way I stopped at the store to buy flowers and a card, I began to cry without really knowing why. The cemetery was very hard. I left them lilies, and a note telling them I missed them and I loved them. the_child left them a note, too, though I don't know what she said.
I know they loved me. I don't think Grandmother and Granddaddy would have known what to make of me now, but I know they would have been proud of me. I just wish I'd thought to bring a book to leave them, so that my words might leach down through the soil and keep them company in their long years of silence.
Rest in peace, Grandmother and Granddaddy.
As usual, more at theFlickr set