The Things We Keep

July 10, 2011

My Grandpa Keith passed away last week at 92. Whenever I note his death, I feel a need to mention his age. He’d lived a very full life, and each year that he aged, we knew that he didn’t have much time left.
I thought knowing something was inevitable translated to being prepared. And I was wrong. I will miss him very much– miss him for me, but especially for my father, my aunt, and my wonderful uncle who took care of grandpa for any years.
In the closet of my father’s summer home are stacks of boxes filled with my grandpa’s life. I happened upon these boxes one night (happened=waited until everyone in the house was asleep so I could search the loot) and spent the next hour learning more about my grandpa than I had in my entire life. From a box.
Journals, letters, pictures, annotations, golf cards, file folders, paper clips, stuff. Stuff. Stuff. And so many questions. Who was this lady who kept writing during WWII and referencing an apple tart. Was the tart a joke or code? Who were all these people in the pictures? When did he sell real estate? Why didn’t I know that? And why was THIS stuff important, why were THESE the things he kept?
There was a person I knew, and that person i’ll treasure. He was my grandfather, and a good one at that. We saw each other a couple of times a year at best, with years sometimes passing in between. Our visits were often brief and surface, especially at the end when grandpa wasn’t always lucid. I was just a few pictures in those many, many boxes, but all those pictures and people and relationships formed the man he was. But one thing I got out of this past week is this–
I might not have known everything about him, but I knew something, and that something was pretty special.