We make deposits of ourselves for our time,
notes in an endless rhythm
By James W. Dolan
I can see the glow in my late wife’s eyes and the smile on her face as she sat with our children and grandchildren at family events. She was happiest among them, her pride evident at the easy banter that seemed to flow effortlessly between them. She is gone four years now, having missed the birth of the youngest two of our eleven grandchildren. They range from twenty-five to two. Fortunately, all but the two newcomers live nearby.
One advantage to an early marriage is the opportunity to enjoy your grandchildren as they grow into young adults. To see the cousins together enjoying each other’s company is a great gift. Now, there are three college graduates, four in college, two in high school, and two in preschool.
The death of their grandmother in 2015 was a profound loss. She was the heart of the family, never forgetting a birthday, anniversary, or special events, always ready with advice and encouragement. A poster still hangs in our kitchen reminding me that “There are but two lasting gifts we give our children, roots and wings.” Another of her favorite sayings was: “Get a life!”
I am a poor substitute but now as the patriarch I carry on knowing that as Poppa, I can never replace their Nana. They will probably remember me as that good-natured old man that occasionally slipped them some “walking around money.”
I never knew my grandparents, so I have no idea what they were like or what was on their minds. They are just mysterious figures in old family photographs, I would have liked to know more about them, Over the past 20 years, I have written about 250 columns for the Dorchester Reporter on a host of subjects, all of which I have saved.
If my grandchildren or great-grandchildren are ever curious about me, there will be a trove of essays, probably gathering dust somewhere, that they can consult to get to know me. A collection of ideas and observation, some serious, others funny, and a few perhaps insightful. They are a window into what was on the mind of that kindly old fellow who kept showing up at family celebrations.
Like waves breaking on the shore, each generation deposits a part of itself at a moment in time, then recedes into the vast unknown, making way for those who come after, one note in the rhythm of an eternal composition in the symphony of existence. Looking at old pictures of departed relatives, I think about where they are and when I might join them.
They sit in a photo;
Captured in time.
What were they like?
What have we in common?
We share a name,
Perhaps some features.
Are there other similarities,
Perhaps more profound?
Were they happy or sad,
Shallow or deep?
Could they have loved me?
Would I have loved them?
Where are they now?
What’s left of them?
Am I all that remains?
Or are they somewhere,
James W. Dolan is a retired Dorchester District Court judge who now practices law.