On an unseasonably chilly June afternoon, against the majestic backdrop of Mt. Bachelor illuminated in the Oregon sun, surrounded by Aspen trees shivering in the wind, 85 guests witnessed vows of commitment and love between my cousin, Paul, and his new bride, Michelle. Throughout the evening, we all toasted and danced in celebration of the young couple. But while the beauty and youth in this new partnership was inspiring, I found myself deeply moved by the passage of time, reflecting on mortality and the concept of Legacy.
Sixteen months after the death of my grandfather – the patriarch of the family tearing up the dance floor – we all couldn’t help but feel his absence. We could almost feel him quietly observing the chaos from the corner, sipping a glass of Asti and likely enjoying a cigar or two when no one was looking. He was never one to participate in the craziness but he always enjoyed being surrounded by it.
While he might not have physically been at last night’s celebration, Grandpa was definitely present. He was present in his two sons, both with a full head of silver hair, on the verge of old age themselves, my beloved uncles bantering back and forth over a game of pool, a family pastime that was instilled in them by their father. Grandpa was present in my 19-year-old cousin who masterfully played classical pieces by heart at the venue’s baby grand piano, as wedding guests and passers by listened in amazement. Grandpa was present in my 22-year-old cousin who firmly shook the hands of strangers, quiet confidence just like his father and grandfather. Grandpa was present in my 31-year-old cousin – best man and older brother of the groom – who joyfully worked the crowd, making all feel welcome and ensuring everyone had a great time, just like his life-of-the-party father. And Grandpa was definitely present in my 26-year-old cousin, the young groom, who respectfully and gratefully embraced the life partner he has found in his strong, beautiful young wife.
My grandfather is present in all of us, but ironically most present in the one family member who doesn’t have his blood coursing through their veins. He is present in my grandma, who witnesses her dear late husband’s legacy in action as she quietly watches over us all.
I woke up this morning, slightly hungover and in a fog of simultaneous sadness and thankfulness: sadness that my grandpa had missed a great party, but thankful for his 87 years of parties and the fact that he had more than enough time to see first-hand that his sons and his grandsons (and daughters and granddaughters, and GREAT grandchildren) are beautiful people who will carry on his legacy of Bonnie strength and kindness for many generations to come.
As I swim this Father’s Day morning in the memory of my grandfather, I pulled out the poem I wrote and read at his memorial sixteen months ago. Ironically, the picture I printed with the poem is of me and him dancing and laughing at my own wedding exactly 10 years ago.
We are all eternally grateful to have had this man in our lives. And in the wake of a beautiful family celebration, on a morning that also happens to be Father’s Day, I’m honored to recall his legacy. Happy Father’s Day, Grandpa. We love you.
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