Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Roots - Nebraska

Written outside, listening to Oscar Lopez, 'Seduction' cd:
Let me not forget the prairie, the golden wheat light, and rainbows in the pivot sprays. One love of my life (Grandpa Andy), then two (Grandpa Andy and the country), then writing my name in fallow earth, like Sarah - Plain and Tall, & claiming my heritage. Mermaid & ocean aside, my folks are from the Midwest, and I also have two able legs and equal feet. I've left my footprints on midnight train tracks and pre-dawn irrigated rows, on the "beach" at the Sutherland Reservoir, and on the concrete steps to Hershey's watering hole. I know the weight of a thick sliding barn door and impatient cattle, the sweltering continuous lift (& near-faint ache) of stacking hay, the combine's rhythm, and the slam of an ancient corn-hauler's clutch.

I loved to watch a faraway gathering of April clouds but ran for the cellar at its nearing -- there, canned beans & corn, & put-away jellies on warped-wood shelves, a friendly stowed sink, and Grandpa's work gloves cast on the floor made me feel safe. Wind like now (out here, in my writing spot on the patio), but not the same at all, too much fear in the way I heard it canceled my reception. I was all eyes and ears and wishing for the city, for somewhere else. But it would pass, sometimes spitting rounds of hail and leaving the farmers all around checking their fields, their outbuildings, the paint jobs on their always-latest-model Chevy's. I harbored panic as I sipped cocoa at the kitchen counter and glared at departing cloud shadows. Grandma gathered together the curtains over the sink, then touched my shoulder as she passed to go read her bible, seated on the bottom of the steep narrow stairs I climbed (always kissing her cheek) each night on my way to bed.

And my Grandpa Andy loved me. I felt it as a certainty beyond the daily dawn. I remember his toothpick stash in the glove compartment (so he wouldn't light up), his chuckle at a gallivanting dog-got-loose, his slow-to-a-crawl drive by of any old piece of farm machinery (or any new!), his collection of harness, chain, tools & keys hanging like the treasures he found in them from steady rows of nails on the barn wall. He never faltered, not even when he couldn't trust his own legs to take a step. His hugs took in more than the flesh and returned the land's vastness -- I never wanted to let go of him.

I want to know, now, when it's too late to ask, what he dreamed of, who he missed, how he felt when he lingered in a late field watching for pheasant. I don't know what his favorite season was, or why, or who he'd never forgotten (or forgiven), or what priceless advice his mother gave him, or why he fell in love with my Grandma. I want him back, now, when I'm old enough to have such questions, and to care about the answers! I want to know him as a man, not just as Grandpa, cruising in the pickup I just helped him wash to the A&W, turning off the farm news station with a sharp click, his eyes dancing when the onion rings and his root beer float finally arrived. I want to say, "I love you" from my entire accumulation of life experience, from my roots that join with his, from the prairie that grew us, and knew us, both -- so differently, yet so very much the same.


Pat - An Arkansas Stamper said...

My heart is touched by this beautiful tribute to your Grandpa Andy.
It's so true that by the time we're old enough to know the questions to ask and to appreciate the answers, those whom we would question are no longer with us.