Postcard from Asheville
I’ve always envied those who enjoy a special relationship with their grandparents.Now several of my friends are becoming grandparents. They love their new status. “I’m able to be present with my grandchild in a way I wasn’t with my children,” one friend confessed. “I don’t know that I’ve ever experienced such love,” another shared.
I never knew my grandparents. With the exception of my paternal grandmother, all died when my parents were young. My father’s mother “Nana” was an active and positive force in my brothers’ lives, but twelve years later when I was born Nana was aging and had littleenergy for a small child.
My mother never spoke of her parents and Dad never spoke of his father. I don’t even have pictures of any of them.I wish I had asked more questions.
My mother’s father was named Arthur Henry Kasten. He died a young man; my mother was not yet a teenager. Recently I’ve felt a strong connection with him. I have a sense that Arthur Henry was a gentle man.
After my trip to Kenya earlier this year, I’ve been studying Africa’s many tribes and their beliefs, rituals, and traditions. I’ve learned that many Africans have a deep respect for their ancestors. They believe their ancestors are always with them, guiding and protecting them. And some tribes celebrate the special relationship between a grandfather and his grandson.
My grandfather and I have begun communicatingthrough my journal. Writing quickly and without judging, I ask him questions, and he answers. I value his insight.
Several weeks ago, he shared something that has changed my life. He said it was time I let go of the shame of not being able to protect my mother. At first, I dismissed his advice. I wasn’t aware of any shame. And isn’t it the mother who is supposed to protect the child, not the other way around? Then it hit me that Mother had been seeking protection, and she had looked to me for it. As a young child, I was not equipped to protect her.
My grandfather was right: I felt shame, and I was also angry. A day later, Arthur Henry went on to say that protecting Mother was, and always had been, his responsibility. And even though he wasn’t there physically, he had always been there for her; she just couldn’t see it at the time.
I felt such relief in his words. As they mixed with the warm air of consciousness, my shame and anger slowly began to evaporate like dew in the morning sun.
My grandfather is with me in a way now he could not be in life.I feel his love; I know I am special in his eyes. At fifty-eight, I’m experiencing the unconditional love of a grandfather, and his love is freeing my soul, opening my heart, and inspiring me to be a better man.
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