Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Bird Tree

This time of year
always has me
thinking a lot

My husband and I both were blessed with eight of the most amazing grandparents a person could wish for. Some of them I knew very very well, and some passed at an age when I was too young to understand the value of a long life. My Papa passed when I was only a year old, but the feeling of him was easy to come by as my Nana never remarried and spoke of him to me often. I was lucky to have Nana until I was seventeen. My Grandma passed when I was only nine years old, but I knew her well and valued her immensely even at that age. It troubled me for years as an adult because I could not recollect the exact tone of her voice, which I had dearly loved as a child. Then, when I was about twenty-six, I had a dream that she called me on the telephone- and there it was, that voice. I haven't forgotten it since. My Grandfather was an incredible man and father. He passed in 2002 and it was heart wrenching for me. I was living in Florida and had just been able to come North and visit him a few months prior. I will forever be thankful for that visit. But the last time I was able to speak with him as he was dying was and will most likely forever be my most difficult conversation I have ever had. I knew without a doubt that this was the last time I would be able to hear his voice in real time, and the last time I would say "I love you" and he would hear it in real time. Nothing can prepare you for the finality of a conversation like that. These four people left an incredible mark on my life. Papa taught about a life of hard work and being a calm and gentle person, Nana taught me about how the world had changed over the course of her life. My sick days off from school always meant that stories about living in the early part of the 1900's without automobiles or television would be the activity we would share. Grandma was an incredible cook, and her thriftiness is something we all still have a good yarn about- but all deeply respect. My Grandfather taught me about the lessons to be learned from travel and the importance of places in nature being preserved for all the world to see. And then there are my husband's grandparents, the privilege of which I have had to know three. Grandpa Ray passed before I met my husband, but he has what can only be described as a saintly quality. A man of nature himself, he left his mark on the landscape in these parts by creating numerous lakes and ponds. We have those bodies of water to be thankful for as they allow of multitude of nature to exist here at Hawk's Run. He loved birds as did my Grandfather, and both were well studied on ornithology. Jason's Grandma was perhaps the sweetest person I have ever met. She and Grandpa Ray had a marriage that I think might just be unattainable for us common folk. They had a true partnership, no ego involved whatsoever. It has been said that no one ever heard Grandma utter a bad word, and I believe it. Grandpa and Granny on my husband's mother's side are still with us and are two of the most interesting and welcoming people I have ever met. Both grew up in the wilds of West Virginia and they have made an incredible impression on my views of "home" and what it should look and feel like for my family. Grandpa plays a mean guitar and his favorite music is bluegrass. Granny is a southern goddess in the kitchen and I will forever fall short in my husband's eyes, but it's more than OK. Trying to live up to the women cooks in his family is a little like trying to out cook Julia Child. It just probably will not happen. The holidays make me think on the lives of all these people and how much we have been enriched by just knowing them. A tree is decorated every Christmas with birds to honor my husband's Grandpa and my Grandfather and I think they both would have enjoyed it. A lot of the recipes made by Nana, both Grandma's, and Granny get practiced in my kitchen. And Papa's zeal with finances and hard work make me strive to try and do better every day in a world that is all too much set up for financial and career disappointment. This world of today is not theirs, it is ours to deal with, but the lessons we have learned from them I hope will help us to survive the world today.

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