Artifacts of Love

Photo of my grandfather, taken in WWII.

Photo of my grandfather, taken in WWII.

I found myself this weekend in the house of my grandfather. Outside, the Saskatchewan flats were concealed by white drifts. Inside, his slanted home was warm and full of artifacts. So many of them reminded me of love. Here they are, in no particular order:

A small cream coloured photo album entitled Our Son’s Wedding – tucked away in a cardboard box. The photo on the first page: bride and groom standing beneath a tree. He in a tan suit with wavy hair and a full beard. She in a simple white cotton dress, made for her after she returned from six months living in Sierra Leone. They are my parents, thirty years ago. They appear relaxed, both smiling, though they are looking in different directions. Scotch taped into the album, shining beneath the plastic protector, their vows. The lines anchor my heart: Let there be spaces in your togetherness, and let the winds of heaven dance between you. Love one another, but make not a bond of love: let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.

Cookie tins remind me of my Nana. She baked the best ginger snap cookies, best served with milk. I went searching for a recipe and found, instead, her journals. Her last ringed journal before she died. Inside, her handwritten scrawl writes matter-of-fact of weather, events, things to do, so very to-the-point. Here and there, I see more of her: September 3, 2008 – “John surprised me with an orchid (59 years ago – an orchid & engagement ring)…we bought a bottle of champagne for tomorrow…hope we will still be here a year from now for our 60th.”

One knife, spoon, fork, plate, glass. My grandpa tells me how difficult, surprising and wrenching it is to wash and dry only one set of dishes and utensils, after every mealtime.

A piece of worn and faded paper with a photograph of my Nana at the top, and a psalm that begins with: “The Lord is my Shepherd.” My grandfather wants to have it laminated. Tries to have it done at a London Drugs. The fellow behind the counter only will only look at me. He doesn’t know how important this piece of paper is. He doesn’t know that my grandfather has been carrying her photograph since they were teenaged kids and he was flying planes in the war.
“Sorry, we can’t do that here. Try Staples.”

In my grandfather’s basement workshop – a piece of driftwood, grey and hard and cracked but fully intact. He loves the character in driftwood, loves that you have to dig down deep to find the grain. I remember two summer ago, only a month and a bit after my Nana passed away, I spent a week with him, listening to his stories and learning how to carve. I remember how I held the carving knife, awkwardly, self-consciously. “Am I doing it right?” I asked him. “There’s no one way. You’ll have to find what works for you,” came his steady advice.

A photograph of my grandfather at my parent’s wedding, bending down to smell the flowers – his face kissed by white daisies. It is comical. His white hair slips down his forehead. His black rimmed glasses containing smiling eyes. All of him is smiling and all of me is smiling as I find it on the last page of the wedding album.

This entry was supposed to speak of ‘reconciling love’ – it was requested of me by a dear friend artist/writer/wandering friend who dropped me off at the airport last Thursday. I’ve sat down at my computer a few times now and tried to rummage up the stories and words and meaning, to make sense of love – romantic love, partnership love, friend love, passionate love, compassionate love, creative love, intellectual love…the list goes on and on. But over the weekend, I’ve come to realize that the very concept of ‘reconciling’ love is somewhat irrelevant, if not melodramatic. To reconcile means to conjure, once again. But love has never departed from my life, never once turned its back on me. Maybe I’ve turned by back on a certain kind of intimate love, but that’s just one form, and perhaps, what healing requires of me for the time being. Like my grandfather’s advice on wood carving, I remind myself that there’s no one way to experience love or connection or partnership, rather, there’s bound to be many ways. And that these ways reveal themselves with time, patience, passion and practice.

I meant to ask my grandfather about the subject this past weekend, but it never seemed necessary. Spending time with him, listening to his stories, better understanding my family, and sensing how deeply he loved and misses my Nana, not to mention feeling the love from all these artifacts surrounding me…it just wasn’t relevant. Love was as clear as a bright blue sky.


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