August 08, 2004

Things Past

My grandfather died when I was 18, having slipped into a coma after a fall and never recovering. This was probably the beginning of my grandmother's decent into senility; her long vigils at his side causing mini-strokes that began to eat at her brain.

Before he died my grandparents lived in this wonderful Victorian house; lead glass windows, stained glass windows, a hall big enough to dance in, an upstairs that was easily divided into three bedrooms AND a full size apartment, where an aunt of my grandmother had previously lived.

It was a wonderful place for a child to play; full of closets and frightening corners that might. who knew? held ghosts.

Much of the time however, we spent in the living room; my grandparents on the green Victorian couch, holding court.

My grandfather was mostly quiet; interjecting advice or commands occasionally, but otherwise, silent. One day however, when I was about fourteen, he abruptly declaimed, into a rather dull conversation of politics and what not.

"You use to be able to smell the flowers!" And the room became silent. My grandfather began to cry."You use to be able to walk down the street and smell the flowers! Now you have to stick your nose right into them to smell anything. The scent use to be all over the street. You use to be able to smell the flowers!" and then he retreated back into silence.

The conversation began after a few seconds; not about flowers, about what I have no memory. But in that moment my grandfather went from being a stick figure to becoming a man; I imagined him when he was young, unbent, proud, walking down his beautiful street full of sweet scents. HE had brought his family there, bought a house large and comfortable where his children could hold dance parties. HE had given them a lovely neighborhood safe and sunny, where they could live with their heads held high. HE had, in a sense, conquered the world.

And I wondered what had taken the scents away; pollution was one thought.

It wasn't till I was older that I learned in breeding had replaced lovely scents with showy blooms; the outside ritz and glitz, replacing the inner sweetness. It seemed to me as if we had traded the most important for the least.

This is my fondest, though saddest memory of my grandfather. I wish he had been less reserved; I wish he had let us see more of him while he was still alive.
I wish I could have known at least a few of his joys.

Posted by Rachel Ann at August 8, 2004 06:12 AM

Our willingness to sacrifice the sweet scents of life for the showy blooms is certainly a part of today's culture. This truth could have not been more aptly stated and certainly made me reflect on what we have lost. Great post.

Posted by: Roberta at August 8, 2004 07:12 AM

It is definitely the quality of the message and not the quantity that is important. One wonderful memory is all you need. Some have none at all.
This was a wonderful post.

Posted by: Robin P at August 8, 2004 01:03 PM

Aah, a bittersweet memory. That sounds like the title of a book about trading the complex essence of the beautiful for the simplicity of the superficial and ending up with pretty emptyness. Or something.

Keith Richards once said that "the eyes are the whores of the senses." I don't remember the exact context, but that line always stuck with me.

Posted by: Tuning Spork at August 9, 2004 02:06 AM