I remember my grandfather well. His waves of snowy white hair and crystal blue eyes behind dark framed glasses, the blue-jean overalls he wore and the pickup he drove to work. I remember him doing plumbing and fixing furnaces, tending the cattle and barn work, and farming the fields. I also remember the evenings after the meal we in my family call supper. His chair at the table had arm rests and he would lean back, prop his stocking feet up on the nearby empty chair and rub them together. All the while the adults (usually just him, my mom, and my grandmother) discussed current topics, local, and national. He always had a distinct opinion of what was right and wrong, of how people should be treated, what things would make circumstances better for all, not just great for a few. I saw and heard it all.
I remember his struggle with the illness that took him from our family when I was just a teen, the rock, the strength. Cancer is so cruel. The man who loved us all and knew what should and shouldn't be done. I remember feeling a shattering of all, a distinct undercurrent of massive change. I also remember my early twenties when I finally found peace with what had happened to this man who was so much to so many. And I swore I would live up to his beliefs, his honor.
True, I didn't know him in his younger years. I've lived long enough now to know he surely made his own mistakes in his early years. He was not a perfect man, but he taught me so much. He taught me that family is everything and that we should respect our differences. If he judged anyone, I was never aware of it. He never picked favorites or blatantly talked bad of anyone. He would dislike decisions, yes, but never looked badly at the one who made the decision. True I was just a child, and children were not involved in adult things back then. The feeling I always got though, from all those hours observing and listening to the adults talk at the supper table, was one that stayed with me. He put you in your place when you needed it how ever harshly he needed to (we are Irish after all), but he was not ever cruel. He was fair and just. He played guitar, raised livestock, farmed fields, respected the land, and created art with wood - shelves, grandfather clocks, porch gliders. He laughed and he cried, but most of all, he loved us all.
In his memory, during my early twenties, I promised to treat all with respect, stand up for what was right. Do right by anyone I met, never do harm to any or hurt anyone, or cause undo stress on anyone for any reason on purpose. And I have done so and will continue to do so to the best of my abilities.
It saddens me to know I have many cousins who didn't get the chance to make memories with this man. It saddens me just as much that he is not here to give stability to an ever increasing avalanche of bad events ripping apart what once was good, shattering bonds for what? I truly do not know. A twisted and ugly mess. And I wonder how, why (that I will never understand), and I hope and pray he is not watching, that he rests in peace.
I will live to honor his memory, as will my children. There are things you just do not do to anyone, let alone family. I remember even if others do not. I'm sorry grandpap, that I couldn't do more. But I promise I will never be a part of any hate or harm to anyone. And I promise to teach my children the same. In your name, I promise that.
And I will always remember you well....