February 24, 2002

Well, I'm in Iowa again. It's my grandfather's 85th birthday today, or was until about an hour ago. As usual I'm glad I came, though not quite sure why. It's a strange sensation.

I don't really enjoy Iowa, and certainly not up here in the northern part which doesn't really have any sense of home to me. My grandfather and step-grandmother moved here to Mason City a few years ago after building a house. They used to live in Cedar Rapids which still seems like where I should be when I visit, or at Clear Lake where they spend their summers.

Now they're up here in an area that doesn't seem to have much to offer beyond large discount stores like Walmart and Kmart and Target. Not that there's anything wrong with those stores, oh no, don't get me wrong. I love Walmart in a very peculiar way and am always excited to go there. But I come here to visit my grandfather and there tends to be a lot of sitting around.

We come in late Saturday, spend the day Sunday going to lunch and dinner and in between sitting around doing crossword puzzles or watching football/baseball/basketball/(or this year)the Olympics. Then we get up Monday, do a little more sitting around, go to lunch, then leave. Usually there's a visit to Walmart/Target/Kmart in there somewhere.

But I find there are no deeply insightful conversations about life or reminiscences about my grandfather's childhood, or any of those things you're supposed to have with the older generation. What was it like for him in WWII? What are some stories about being a travelling salesman? What was my grandmother like (a subject pretty much never brought up due to possible 2nd wife issues)?

These are all things I wonder about vaguely, wishing I might know him better. But they don't come up. My grandfather's not a big talker. If I asked him all these things I'm not sure he would find them very welcome. I suppose I should ask anyway. But that's not what happens.

We sit around and it's more like a relationship you have with a friend you see every day. We talk about day to day things, the weather, sports, things we see on TV, local events like new discount stores opening up. I often sort of wonder why it's nice for him to have us come.

But then we leave. And I see in his face and his eyes and feel in his hugs how happy he was that we came. How much he enjoyed seeing us. How much he loves us in his quiet way. Last time I visited, in October, it was after that final hug that I said to my parents that I needed to come visit more often. It was something in the feeling of that hug, and his voice when he said he didn't see me very often. I realized I have an 85 year old grandfather. And he loves me. And I love him. And here I am in Iowa again.

Tomorrow we leave and I will once again file away the feeling of that hug and know that the next time an opportunity arises, I'll be back here, in Iowa, in discount stores, and in the den watching baseball.

Posted by Alyssa at February 24, 2002 10:52 PM
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