I’m behind on everything – we’re reopening for Covid Summer 2021 Step 3 at my work! Summer camps! School! Side gig! Kids! – so of course I’m popping in to update my blog in the first time in forever.
This morning I was lying in bed gathering my forces and I had such a strong memory of arriving at my grandparents’ mobile home in Florida to find the pantry stocked with cashews and Pringles, my two most premium treats at that time. I’ve been thinking a lot in the pandemic about the ways we care for each other — or fail to — and that feeling of sneaking a peek in the pantry within moments of greeting everyone and seeing that it was all set up with my favourite snacks came flooding back. Really visceral. I often feel the traumas I carry with me, but today it was a fierce sense of truly unconditional love.
My Grandpa Don was a physicist who worked for General Electric before he retired. He married my grandmother, who was much younger, fairly late. It may be an apocryphal story but the family lore is that he was invited by Oppenheimer to work on The Manhattan Project. I can imagine, knowing how much he loved to learn new things and be around smart people, that it was really hard for him to turn that down – but he did, on the grounds that he would work in defence but not on a bomb.
He did in fact end up working on radar and microwave technologies. I remember heating things up in a microwave with him and him explaining wavelengths to me. He bought me circuit boards and handled my incessant questions well. Although he had been really sexist with my mother when she was going to school, by the time I came along he had learned better. It didn’t take, but he encouraged any interest I had in any form of science and if it had, it would have been because of him. And in fact, he just plain encouraged me.
He used to get up early in the morning to chat with people overseas on his ham radio – he was into social media decades before the Internet, really. His license plate, which I still have, was his call sign. Then he solemnly ate a bowl of wheat germ and shared the paper with my grandmother, who woke up a lot later and chain-smoked (he had quit by the time I was around.) In the afternoons he listened to opera. I remember hearing Don Giovanni for the first time, and him explaining the plot of Madame Butterfly.
He died when I was nine. Younger than either of my children are now. I never had anything close to an adult conversation with him, and there’s so much I don’t know. Most stories I’ve heard have generally been through a nostalgic lens, the Very Important Man, or The Father. But it doesn’t matter; his gift to me is love and it’s right here today.