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My welsh grandfather, Robert Edwin Marsden, would no longer come to town.
‘Things are too different.’, he said. The former soccer star, tram-car driving, contractor and real estate maven was fine at making change, but when faced with it, well that’s a different ball of wax.
Two streets are named for him here, and I’m proud of that, just like he probably was back when it happened, when I was too little to know. But now most of the homes he built are gone, solid and strong with room for gardens and life, and neighborhoods have changed and his friends have all passed and he is the last, and it must pain him to see that it’s gone. And now there are just ghosts left, that swirl around in the dust of the hot road when he is driven by to see, and we point ‘remember that? remember what use to be there?’, and I think he’s crying when his shoulders move in a heavy sigh.
And now we only have his memories about sharing big bowls of spaghetti with the Italian families he lived and worked with. We have only our memories of back yard swimming pools, where I would sit at one end, tirelessly throwing golf balls for him to retrieve, learning to count, his way. And hopscotch memories of the grid taped under the big rug, that would be rolled up for our benefit as we hopskotched our way through hot summer, pink petunia smelling days, with grape popsicles, waiting for the coolness of our skating rinks to start.
Bike riding and riding and riding and walking and roller-skating before buses came to our part of the road. Collecting curbside popsicle sticks on our ways, saving to make gifts with glue when we got home, ‘God’s eyes’. Learning to swim at lumberman’s arch, when there was water there and coliseum hockey games and sunday dinners and slow times and phone call dimes, and then swimming at the Y.
And all the things he taught me about love and getting water out of your ears and r-e-s-p-e-c-t for your elders, respect for your elders or else! grandfathers say, maybe even today; and growing and gardening, and don’t forget sugar on your young lettuce, it’s so good and so sweet.
And all the ways to be and ways to not be; seen by my eyes and my mother’s eyes and from him to her to me.
And then our last days and last phone calls, when it was hard to breathe and he said he was not long for this world, and his children around singing him off this earth and out of his time, which I think, left with him just then.
To all of the grandfathers’ invisible foundations that our lives are built on here, that all of our lives stand on now, steady or not, here we come.