This one is for my father's father; John Lind Lawes.
Who died of tuberculosis in the flush of his youth, leaving his wife to raise three small children through the Depression and the World War.
When I was a young child my Grandmother Lawes terrified me; she seemed like a wizened, frail, querulous old vulture tottering ever nearer the grave as I watched. Once I refused to kiss her goodbye as she was leaving, which, not surprisingly, put my father in a rage. But when he pulled me aside and told me without ceremony to kiss my gramma goodbye I hissed "I won't - she makes me think of Death!" he returned to his mother and excused me.
I think he must have known something about that feeling, having lost his father at the age of four.
About six or seven years later I was sitting sifting though some old papers in his ginormous rolltop desk (which my father had inherited after his mother's death) when I turned up a sepia photo print of a young woman in Nineteen-teen clothing. She was sitting in a window seat with a book in her lap, her lovely oval face serene under her cloud-mass of auburn hair. Perhaps the most arresting feature were her eyes; deep, dark, glowing with bright intelligence and the promise of a happy, loving tomorrow.
I picked up the photo and studied it for a long time. I couldn't help feeling a sort of quiet yearning to meet this beauty in her Gibson Girl skirt and sit beside her to watch her long, long slender fingers as she turned the pages of her book. Finally I picked up the photo and wandered out to find my father.
"Hey, Pop," I tossed the photo on the table where he was sitting "who's the gorgeous gal in the picture?" He picked it up and looked at it briefly, set it back down and looked at me with an odd smile on his face.
"That's your Grandma Lawes." he said.