Your mind wandered as a brief pause in our conversation settled in. We were driving back from a town you knew well, and one I’d come to know as much. The car drifted into the lane beside us, the one reserved for those headed the opposite way. I too looked out the window, letting my mind ponder the sheer time the trees in the distance had seen, and how we have so little of it to experience. I noticed a car approaching, and figured you did too. But it came closer, inching ever nearer to our fate. Finally I broke your wandering mind and you reacted with the speed of a man half your age. I yelled just one word, “Grandpa!”
We were safe. I cast no blame, your mind was restless like mine, your desires bigger than the world you resided in. The ability to keep yourself latched to the moment without looking far ahead was an affliction, if you could call it that, which I shared with you. It was not the first time you had made a mistake, and tried to correct it. Thankfully, it was successful, a consequence not often enough for you, I know. It didn’t matter just then, we laughed about it the rest of the ride home.
There are few people in the world you can disagree with vehemently, but respect with the same vigor. You were one of those for me. Our worlds were different, time had passed, wars fought, nations destroyed, governments toppled and replaced. Money was, for some, easier to come by, a struggle had settled into passing the rewards forward to the next generations. It was I who received your check, written with years of toil, mistake and attempted reparations. We were different, but shared not only genetic material, but mindfulness, appreciation for nuance and irony, as well as the undeniable desire to always be victorious in argument.
We battled; hard. We disagreed and yelled, hurled insults and consternation, but could always break the stalemate with a joke, or an ironic twist of fate. That was us, two fighters for truth, whose paths had meandered far away only to come rushing back in glorious collisions. I reveled in the chance to be honest with an elder, to contest the “wisdom” that was attained over years of strife, and to put them to the test of the modern world. You, in return, loved to tease the impressionable, stab holes in our multi-colored coat, and impart indelible truths gleaned from a lifetime of engagement with humanity.
Then there is music, the great bridge of generations. Though the form diverse, the tempo was always fast, a reflection of how we viewed life. You, like I, ensured that it continued and in right time. It was us who, though branded with white skin still retained rhythm, made sure the band was grounded and allowed to stretch its legs. When I sit each time before my instrument I will take a moment and remember all the times you too sat in your own stool, providing the basis for everything else. From now on, you will have to take a seat next to me, for it is my turn to take on the whole burden.
One last thing we share I cannot leave unsaid. I too have stared at the empty bottom of bottles, wondering why its contents had only provided part of what they formerly had. Though I recalled countless wonderful memories with the drink, they had receded far from the present and only served to send my insides swirling. It’s a lesson that came too hard or too late for you, but it’s one, though unspoken, you have helped me to learn. I will raise a glass to you today, the last day that allowed your mind to continue exploring, but I will also put it down. It is that quality which is, really, a greater tribute to your legacy.
So with this ode I say farewell, though you won’t be far. Not hoisted high above, or sent careening down below, instead your place will be with me, taking a seat for a performance or holding my hand as we wander into introspection or utopian dreams. I won’t forget you, or what you’ve taught me. I won’t forget your desire for truth or your belly laugh at irony’s greatest follies. You were my grandpa, and were your own until the dawn began breaking this morning, but now you’ve gone and are left to reside in all those who remain etched by your genes and blessed by your ever adventurous spirit and incorrigible mind. Thank you for everything, I won’t forget you.