I’m going back a ways with this story, but I’m still talking about people that you will find in my first book A Bird and the Dragon: Their Love Story: a Memoir. This time we start off with my mother, Jordan Elizabeth Sanderson. In the book, you will read that when she was just over ninety it became clear that she needed help with many of the daily tasks and so we asked her to turn over her car keys to my husband Sy, whom she adored, and then she would be leaving her senior apartment in Massachusetts and coming to live with us in our senior community home in Connecticut. When we pointed out that she was getting lost as she traveled in her car and that she sat low enough in her car that she might not see a child dart out from a sidewalk, she handed over the keys. Children were very precious to her, especially little children. I think she felt some relief but great sadness as she gave up her freedom.
Along in this same time period my siblings and I decided to give my mother a big
ninetieth birthday celebration which ended with a birthday party at the community center where she lived. All the distant relatives were invited and her friends from the town. We siblings had many of our children and grandchildren there. Part way through the festivities, I could see that my grandson, Andrew, aged four was getting a bit out of hand so I cornered him and asked if he wanted to go for a walk. Happy to be out of the crowd, we walked past the community center and one other senior apartment building winding up at the edge of our town cemetery, the place where my father had been buried many years before. As we walked I talked to him about Great-Grampa Sanderson, which if you are following this blog you have seen in an earlier blog. I talked about Grampa Sands’s love of the outdoors and how he knew all the animals that lived there. I told Andrew that his great-grandfather was a gardener and a hunter who owned several guns before he died. I think I conveyed to Andrew that this man was a gentle man, a man of peace for all that I knew he also had a fierce temper like Andrew’s, which my father kept under heavy guard.
We wound up at the grave site where Andrew got to touch the granite stone marker with the simple vine leaves down both sides. Andrew asked, “Is Great-Grandpa Sands still here?”
No I said, “Some of his physical body is here but his spirit, the part that made him the man I remember as my father, lifted up out of his body at the moment that he died.”
Andrew’s next question was, “So where did he go?”
I responded, “My belief is that he became like a misty substance and he was then free to float or roam wherever he wanted. He now comes sometimes to visit his children in their homes and I guess he goes to visit other family members and his few friends.”
“So what did he look like before he became a mist?” Andrew asked.
“My best recollection of my father is before he became so sick. He was a sturdy, lean man who stood pretty erect for most of his life. He had dark hair, which he said was brown, but I always thought it was black. His skin was ruddy from being in the out-of-doors and he had bushy eyebrows—which I can remember he used to pull when he was contemplating something.”
By this point Andrew had calmed down and was ready to go back to the party as a prouder child because he now knew he had an ancestor and this man liked some of the things that Andrew liked. I think oftentimes we feel children are too young for these conversations—some children, yes, but not all children.
It had to have been about two months later, Andrew and his sister Nicole where
at our house for their weekly visit. Sy was about to come home from work on a Friday afternoon. Our senior community home had a small porch at the front and we had put two wooden rockers on the porch. One was a bentwood rocker that my father had made several years ago and one was a rocker that a farmer in that first ministerial parish had made for me as a gift. Both chairs are precious to me but are now in need of some loving care.
Back to my story! Andrew couldn’t read a clock yet but he knew it was time for his grandfather Sy to be getting home from work and he ran ahead of me out onto that porch. As I step out onto the porch I see Andrew has gone to my father’s rocker and is running his hand over the seat but about two inches above it. “What are you doing, Andrew?” I ask.
“I want to sit in this chair but I need to warn Great-Grampa Sands that if he doesn’t move I’m going to sit on him. I don’t want to squish him.”
Now, tell me children don’t have a wider vision and greater understanding of the Universe than we do as adults!