Sunday, December 01, 2013

Notes from my Knapsack 12-5-13

Notes from my Knapsack 12-5-13

Jeff Gill


A story on the way home - pt. 9




Nelson stood looking at his grandfather.


He gazed placidly back, this elderly fellow with a tube under his nose and a blanket draped easy chair in the middle of a trailer home. Nelson had only just learned he had a grandfather, let alone one with his name (or he his), and had followed the winding trail of documents and receipts and paid utility bills to this cluster of mobile homes next to Rt. 16 off of Weaver Drive.


"Your sister," the man said, waving the younger Nelson to a less upholstered seat across from him, "she had tracked me down here. Don't ask me how, I don't know."


"She just showed up here?"


"Pretty much. Your father had brought me here when he taught for a while at Denison, and after he'd gotten into some kind of hot water, I guessed with a student, one of those young women that were always chasing after him or he them, he headed south to some new lecturer job. He'd invited me to come with him, but by then, I'd made some friends here, gotten involved with some folks…"


(At this point, Nelson's newly discovered grandfather very slowly offered up what for all the world looked like a wink, but his brain refused to process it as such until some time later.)


"Anyhow, your father wandered off again, something your sister assured me you were both used to, and I stayed put. Had an apartment in town, but after your father died down in Dallas, or was it Houston? Regardless, the money got tight, and I learned one of these fine modular homes (the wink appeared again, to the same level of bemused denial in Nelson's mind), and it fit my budget better, so here I am."


"And my sister knew you…" There was little Nelson could say, given how little conversation he'd had with her in recent years, not to mention some unspoken unvoiced unissues that kept them both dancing around candor.


"That's right," said the elder Nelson, as if his grandson's last statement was a masterpiece of clarity. "She didn't want to burden you with an old coot you might not want to know about, and since she said you were pretty bitter about your father, my prodigal son, she was waiting for the right moment to tell you about me. Which, the universe and circumstances divine and otherwise seem to think is now."


"Now wait a minute, I'm not bitter about…." Nelson paused in mid-statement and thought about what he was just about to say. Yes, his father had been more absent than present, and had been less than no help to his mother as he and Cheryl had grown up. And yes, he probably had referred to his biological father as…."okay, so I was not impressed with my father's paternal skills."


"Your sister was afraid learning about me would just cause you to pass along the rejection your father never noticed to an earlier, deservedly blameworthy generation." There was no rancor, no irony in his grandfather's voice. Just a matter of fact expression of mistakes made, and regrets noted.


"In fact, sir, grandfather sir, honored ancestor," (with that, a small smile blossomed on the elderly man's face) "I'm pleased to meet you. And what on earth do we do now?"


Jeff Gill is a writer, storyteller, and pastor in central Ohio; tell him what you think happens next at or @Knapsack on Twitter.

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