Thursday, December 10, 2009

Love and loss and longing

everything is temporary

That's what the philosophers say, right? Live in the now, because the past is gone, the future is an illusion. I'm trying to learn that, because I believe it's true.

My father's father, when he was dying, talked to me about the peach tree he grew. He longed for it. It seemed to symbolize his whole life; he grew it from a peach that he ate. He planted it. He grew it into a tree, and he ate peaches off that tree. His boys ate peaches off that tree. And now, the tree was gone, and he was dying.
He was dying, and that tree was one of the most meaningful things in his life. He missed the tree.
I remember him talking about the tree, and I had no memory of the peach tree. I barely have any memory of exactly what he said about the peach tree. The tree was gone.
And his story, about the peach tree, is also practically gone.

I remember my Grandfather very well. He was an important, although quiet, part of my childhood. He was happy; he was kind. He was earnest. He made me sing "Ain't She Sweet" with him, when I was little. He warmed my milk with a little bit of coffee, because he thought it wasn't good for someone to drink cold milk on a cold day. And he went and got crumb buns at the bakery, because he knew I liked them, and he showed me how to cut them in half, butter the middle, and put the crumb side down on the buttered part, so none of the crumbs fall off. My Grandfather, when he retired, grew beautiful vegetables in a tiny little backyard; tomatoes, and stringbeans, especially. And during the winter, he made photo collages and hung them all over the walls of his garage.

He told me a few stories. He told me that his boys weren't allowed to join the regular little league, because they weren't "white" enough in his neighborhood. They were half italian and half american indian. So he helped start another league for them, where they were allowed to play. And he told me about when he was young, working for the factory - Bristol-Myers -- and he was the elevator operator, and someone was banging on the elevator, "and whaddya know? It was Mr. Bristol, Himself!" And when he was really hard up, and he needed money for his sick wife, Mr. Bristol lent him the money, and he paid it off a little at a time out of his pay check -- but Mr. Bristol gave him a raise, so he didn't really pay, not really.

All of those years and all of those stories of my grandparents, and they are gone. There is a ghost of a memory in my heart of the things that they told me, and the ghost lingers, but they are long gone. It is the way that it is.

6 comments:

Netizen101 said...

Yes, everything in life is impernament or 'temporay'. Your status, fame, riches, happiness, sadness.... they come and go. We must learn not to let these things bother us. One way to do that is to practice non-attachment. Don't grasp onto these conditions. Let them come and let them go - enjoy the good, bear with the bad - let them all take their courses.

Paul said...

awww, Sue, that made me teary eyed, It reminded me of my Grandfather who passed away in May this year, he used to have a garden, peach and pear trees. Every year him or we both would pick the peaches off the tree mostly after church on Sunday. I don't like pears so I always told him I wanted the peaches. of course i was the only one in the family who actually like them other than him. I remember coming home with bowls of peaches on sunday. He'd sometimes even had them already picked and ready for me. He had the garden up until 5 years ago. Peach trees are still there. The one is dying, the other one is like a stick, i can't figure out how it is still stading. I plan on cutting them down and replanting them in his memory when I move into the house in the spring.

Paul

Sue said...

Vincent - exactly - I'm trying not to grasp tightly on to the emotions, to just let them flow in and out. And actually, the longing is a very good emotion in some ways, as long as I don't fight it and just go along with it. Bittersweet is a very nice flavor, I think.

Paul - I'm sorry about your grandfather. The holidays are a very nostalgic time of year. I would think that he would be very happy for you to continue his orchard in his memory.

Anonymous said...

Sue if you want to visit one of Grandpa's peach trees, there is one in my back yard that he grew from two peach pits. They grew together into one tree with two fused trunks. There is a different variety of peach on each side.
Mom

Sue said...

Hey Mom,
That is a cool tree... even if the deer do eat the peaches all the time :P
I was going to have Frank bring the chainsaw up; (NOT for the peach tree, lol!) But is there stuff to saw, or is there too much snow?

Beth said...

Sue...you need to write down these bits of stories you remember in a journal...if not for public use but for your boys and their kids when you're gone.
at least they'll have some stories, even if only part...I would love to have something like that for my girls...and their kids...