Saturday, April 23, 2011

Easter

Easter brings back some hard memories for me each year. I came to realise that for all of my life I'd be stuck with it and there is no forgetting. Memory is a terrible thing sometimes, and the moreso because it has so much good that to lose the bad would mean losing that good too. I wouldn't ever wish to lose the memories I have of my grandfather, even that last, the Easter day that he died. I miss him now, as I have since that day when he sailed away to Avalon.

My parents were scum, and no doubt. I'm old now and I can see them for what they were, not as a child upset about this or that but as an old man who has been in the world and who has seen and done much, much of it hard. My parents were scum. My grandfather, I am sorry to say, was probably not related to me by blood. He was a god. I loved him very much, and to this day I could weep at the thought of him dying in front of me like that.

Grampa took me out for the weekend into the high mountains to a lake he liked to fish at. He'd sit and smoke his pipe and doze off in the sunlight and make funny noises in his sleep. I'd scamper around on the rocks and run through the forest and look for things of interest, old arrow heads sometimes, or petrified wood or stones with things growing in them, amber with leaves and such. I'd come back and show grampa the things I found, and he'd tell me I should have been fishing because he hooked one so big it nearly pulled him into the lake. He had to let it go because I wasn't there to help him pull it in. He did magic tricks with cards and pulled things out of his hand and had me rapt and wondrous. He was a clever guy and funny and wise. He knew all about our family, that we were directly descended from the kings and that we were warriors back in the old country. He had the battle yells and he knew the clans, the good and the bad, and he was my hero. He knew about the swords and the shields and the battles we fought in the hills back in the land. He knew the sky and the gods and all about us and beyond. At night he'd sit by the fire and play the pipes over the lake. To this day I get chills at the hint of the sound.

So I came out of the forest and saw my grampa lying on his side and hardly moving on the ground. I put my face down beside him to ask what was wrong, and his breath nearly made me sick. I drew back and he closed his eyes and soon after made a terrible gurgling sound and was still. I sat with him and waited for him to get up, but he didn't. He was dead. There was no way I could bring him back. I shook him and I cried and I jumped around and had fits, but none of that did any good. I thought of getting him in the boat so I could row him to the dock across the lake, but it was late and I didn't think I could make it alone. I got him in, but I was done. I couldn't row that far in the night. I left him there and slept.

I woke up because it was cold, and I put some wood on the fire. I looked at grampa laying there in the bottom of the boat. I held up a brand and saw a bug crawl into grampa's nose. Grampa didn't even twitch, and the bug never came back out. I was pretty distressed. I started laying in our stuff beside him, thinking I could try the row across the lake anyway. I had all our stuff piled up, and then I could do no more. I was too tired and too upset. I sat and cried a while. But then I heard a voice from the hills, a Scotsman like my grampa but different, a king's voice, telling me that grampa was dead and was on his way to the Halls. I looked at grampa in the bottom of the boat, and he looked OK. He looked small but good. He was a handsome guy. I put some stones on his chest from shoulder to shoulder, and some fishing lures on a line over his forehead, a bit like a crown. I adjusted his fishing rod by his side, and put the tackle box at his feet. I pushed the boat into the water till it was floating and free, and then I poured a can of kerosene all over grampa and the rest of the things with him. I ran back to the campfire and got a burning branch and tossed it into the boat. There was a fire as grampa floated way in the night to Heaven. It was huge for a while, and I feared that someone would see it and come and get me and find grampa before he got to his place, but nothing happened but the fire got smaller as the boat caught a current and became a small glow in the darkness. I tried blowing the pipes but I never learned how, and I couldn't make them work. Eventually I fell asleep.

In the morning I walked around the back of the lake and got a ride with a farmer who knew my family. He asked where my family was, and I told him I had been fishing with grampa for the weekend, and that grampa died on the shore. He wanted to go back and see for himself but I told him I had put grampa in the boat and cast him adrift. I didn't mention the fire.

Well, I had to when my dad got hold of me. He went crazy. He was crazy to start with. We can skip that part. I remember Easter as the day my grampa died and went to Avalon, to stand for his time in the Ring of Brodgar, to face our forefathers, to take his place among them. That's the part I recall. The rest was not so good. I remember that too. My grampa, of course, never came back from the lake. He wasn't Jesus. I didn't ever think so. He was a hero. That's all I ever wanted from him. That's how I remember him.

5 comments:

Zilla/MJ said...

I respond to your post with tears in my eyes. I am so sorry for the loss of your grandpa and all of the hardships you went through as a child. Your story is a beautiful tribute to him though and I am sure he'd be proud. God Bless You.

CGW said...

Lo, there do I see my father;
Lo, there do I see my mother
And my sisters and my brothers;
Lo, there do I see the line of my people
Back to the beginning.
Lo, they do call to me;
They bid me take my place among them
In the halls of Valhalla
Where the brave may live
Forever.

CGW said...

You're a good storyteller, Dag . . . but it's unkind to play with unwary emotions.

Dag said...

I go to church sometimes at Easter. I love the Greek Orthodox mass. There might be some resentment that I only show up for these things on occasions that I find meaningful to me, perhaps leaving less room for those who attend regularly and have rightfully earned a place there. I spread myself around. I usually go to wherever it might be that I can attend a Bach mass, St. Matthew being my favourite.

On those rare occasions that I go to church I feel like I too am part of something universal and good. I try to do other things each day that are good too, if not so specifically meaningful to others like Easter is for them. I have my own private things to keep me then.

Today, even if I squeeze others who belong all the time, I would like to take a place with everyone if only briefly.

Dag said...

Tertullian sums it up for me:

Credo quia absurdum.