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Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The Memorial


We scattered Grandpa’s ashes the day before our second wedding anniversary. He joined his sister over the rose bushes and in a saltwater lake, and got his very own section of gentle waves on Crescent Beach.

“Last year on his 90th birthday he was walking out over these jagged rocks,” my aunt told us. “I was just praying ‘God don’t break your hip out there.’”

The ashes went in and my dad said, “Welcome home, Dad.” Those gentle waves beat the South Shore of Nova Scotia like a call to prayer to the generations of my family, gelled together by blood and choice. Together we scattered him one spoonful at a time.

Grandma explained it, “He spent his boyhood summers here. He brought me to it. Everyone always felt at home at this house, even if they weren’t from here.”

“His own grandfather built it,” his daughter added. “And the one down the road.”

“We all still feel more at home here than in the city or anywhere else,” my father added. His own artwork covers a wall. My great-aunt’s souvenirs from the north cover the shelves.

The rest is old framed black & whites, scrapbooked letters from people like my great-great-grandfather the seafaring captain who was the first to sail the Panama canal. “I trust my daughter’s judgement,” he wrote to my great-grandfather, his new, unmet, son-in-law. He reminded him that he wasn’t marrying a rich man’s daughter, that his house was humble, that he missed it. He was glad that she wasn’t marrying into the lonesome misery of a sailor’s life, that though my great-grandfather was a mere farming man, there was no shame in it.

It’s the history of the place that makes us feel welcome; its ghosts welcome us, turn out the lights to conserve power, for the sake of our future.

“Are you sniffing your butt?” my young cousin-once-removed asks her puppy as the sacred part begins, and some of us giggle. Grandma explains to her plainly what this is all about, and she nods. She too, and the ones that follow her, will feel welcome in this place.

The next day it's our two-year wedding anniversary, and that history beckons me, tells me it’s safe to bring new Benjamins here, that as an elder cousin I may soon be entrusted as a sharer of knowledge and family stories. So will be my wife. Though I may be foolish and human, I am never alone, nor shall be my wife, nor my children. They too shall feel welcome in this place.

2 comments:

EB said...

This is beautiful. I, too, was brought into the family at a young age (18) with my first visit to the family home followed by a write up in the local paper to announce that I had been here. and, I have loved the place and the family ever since.

EB

benjibopper said...

wow, didn't know about that local paper write up. that's a nice welcome. kind of reminds me of the finnish publication of that pic of miia and i on a tandem bike.