portrait of a life: becoming

It’s Thursday, affectionately known as “Grandpa night” because for the last four and a half years, I’ve spent every Thursday evening at my grandparents’ house. It is my favorite night of the week. Grandpa and I drink coffee, put puzzles together, and watch old Clint Eastwood and John Wayne movies together.

Tonight, we looked through old photo albums. I love the way they transport me through time. There is magic found in how they take me to an era so foreign to me, but make it seem familiar with the friendly faces I know looking back. My grandparents when they were young. How you can almost feel their hope for the future. A time so different than my own and at the same time, so similar.

I have pondered at length, especially the past two days, who I am and who I am not. I’ve wondered the great purpose of my life and feel like it’s a thing that keeps eluding me. I’ve felt burdened by the weight of an unlived life.

Sitting at a table notched with memory and age, I soak in the smell of coffee and old dust as I flip through photos, my grandfather’s calloused hands helping turn the pages (fitting – he’s always been good at helping me start new chapters). I see photos of myself when I am young and think a lot of where I started in this great tumbled mess of life. I wonder who I am becoming. Would the girl in those photos, so unknowing of what stretched before her, be proud of me?

Over the smell of old Kodak, I lay to rest my angst of the last two days, that itch for greatness and magnitude. In these moments I think only of becoming like my grandfather: kind, wise, and steadfast.

He is 82 and remembers being a boy, riding into town in his grandpa’s covered wagon. He remembers the black-out curfews in WWII. He served in the US Air Force in the fringes of the Korean War. He’s watched the world spin steadily on. This earth and her violence and victories.

The trouble he’s seen, no doubt getting heavy. With it, cause to bar the door and shut it all out. No one would blame him.

And yet.

Despite all the bitterness and hate and war and hardscrabble, down on your luck, worst of times… I boldly attest that you will be hard pressed to find anyone more willing, more eager, to open his door and let you in.

And what of me? Blue eyes look up at me from developed film, eyes ready for a story to be recorded behind them, and they seem to be asking that question:

What of you?

Have I lost my play, my wonder, my way of paying attention to the world?

Am I, too, inclined to open the door and let the world in or do I shut it out?

For the sake of my grandpa, who sits next to me in warm blue flannel, and for the sake of myself, girlish and free in the photos, I pray I am.

And for the sake of both, I move onward, going forth boldly.