Yesterday an article was published about me in The Sunday Times. A lovely article by a lovely reporter with a lovely accompanying photo.
And yet, for a variety of reasons yesterday I did not feel so lovely. I was, in fact, awash in melancholy.
I’d gone to a moody movie with an equally moody score that sent me spiraling alone. Into myself.
I was aching for something. Something missing.
My thoughts turned to my grandpa. Robert Raven.
A man who had the kindest, twinkly blue eyes that matched the star-sapphire ring he wore on his right hand.
Above is a photo of Grampa and Grannie Raven and my mom. He may look ordinary to you, but if you look closely, you can see the extraordinary twinkle behind the glasses.
* * *
Grandpa was a man who could and would happily strike up a conversation with just anyone. A man who never met a stranger. He knew that a friend was waiting after the warm greeting, “How do you do?”
A man who, while not formally educated after high school, had a voracious love of reading about history, nature – in particular the red rocks and sage brush of the western United States, and people. He kept every single copy of National Geographic in pristine condition in a bookcase in the basement. I used to thumb through them when I’d visit. Learning about places I never thought I would ever travel to. But many, by now, that I have been fortunate enough to have even lived in.
We would take long exploring walks in the Indiana woods behind the home he had built and that he still shared with his equally kind wife, my Grannie, Dolores. He loved that woman so. And she loved him back joyfully. The bond those two humble humans shared is something I envy.
Right now, I can’t think of anything dramatic to illustrate the love they had. It was the composite of little things.
For me, my grandpa’s love was expressed through small moments that made lasting memories – during our walks in the woods.
Grandpa showed me how to make Sassafras tea from the root of a small Sassafras tree sapling. He taught me how to find Morels that seemed to purposefully hide under the broad, low leaves of Mayapple plants.
The spongy mushrooms were so abundant; it was only after I had grown up and moved away from Indiana that I realized they were considered a rare, culinary delicacy. Maybe most important of all, he taught me to stop talking for a moment as we meandered amidst the trees, stand still and just listen.
Grandpa Raven, or just Grampa, as I used to call him, wasn’t tall. He was only about 5’6” before cancer began to curl his body forward. But to me, especially after my own dad died when I was 11, Grampa was a solid, strong refuge.
His strength was his kindness. His natural curiosity and his enjoyment of others. He was a steady presence of comfort.
It’s been many years since cancer finally won over my grandpa’s inner strength. I still have his star sapphire ring that he bequeathed to me, his eldest grandchild. It’s a treasure. My daughter’s middle name is Raven, in tribute to him. She’s an even greater treasure.
I hope each of you has a Grampa Raven.
Someone who shows their love and strength through consistent and confident kindness.
I hope you treasure them too.
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