A month ago I found myself in New England and while I was there I decided to take the opportunity to visit my hometown of Easthampton, Massachusetts. I have not been to the area since I was 16-years-old. I had a number of tasks I wanted to accomplish while I was there. I managed to accomplish all of them.
- Visit the Yankee Candle Factory.
- Visit the Williamsburg General Store
- Visit Mt. Tom
- Go to the Holyoke Mall.
Along the way though some interesting things happened. After an extended period of not communicating with my brother, I decided to contact him. I needed my father’s phone number (The reason I didn’t have it is a very long story for another time perhaps). My brother gave it to me and was shocked to learn I was in New England. The rest of my day changed drastically. I spent the day texting my dad between stops I made. I visited two of my childhood homes and the graves of my grandfathers.
Memories flooded my mind when I went to the houses. The mall also hit me with some memories. Williamsburg General Store brought tears to my eyes when I walked in and everything still looked and smelled exactly the way I remembered it. My grandfather’s grave on my mother’s side was interesting. It felt strange. I remember getting the news of my grandfather’s passing. I scrubbed the marker stone, but I had no words. Nothing to say. The date on his headstone was September 24th, 2004. I married my first wife September 4th, 2004. I remember getting the call about his passing. I don’t have a lot of memories of him, but I remember that clear as day. It felt like I found something I wasn’t even sure I’d lost.
My last stop of the day was back in Northampton where it had begun. This was where I saw, for the first time, the headstone for my grandfather on my father’s side. I never knew him. When I found his marker, there almost wasn’t even a marker to see. It was half buried and overgrown with grass, badly discolored by age. I cleared the marker and dug out the edges with a stick. Then i got to work scrubbing the marker down. It changed from black to a grey granite. I looked at it when I was done and felt…strange. My grandfather was 32 when he passed in 1962. He served in the Signal Corps with the Army in Korea. Most importantly though, He and I have the same name. I looked down at the worn but freshly cleaned stone marker at my own name. I know almost nothing about him, but sitting there on my knees, looking at that marker…it hurt a little.
Tonight, almost a month after getting home, I was putting my children to bed and something brought all of this back into my mind. I felt incredibly out of place. Like I was somewhere else. As I came down the stairs to drop myself into my chair in my office behind my computer I saw it there in my mind. The old tree, the marker, the cool grey sky and tumbling leaves getting pushed around by the wind. I felt like I was still there. Like when I left that cemetery I left something behind. I’ve only felt that a couple times in my life. The beach in California in San Diego, a particular spot in Northern Iraq, and now, a memorial marker in an old cemetery in Northampton, Massachusetts. How is it possible to feel such a strong and unexpected connection to a place I barely know toward someone I’ve never met? Why did it take so long for this to settle itself in my mind? What made it come up? Its very strange. I think I need to go back.
Until then, rest easy Grandpa.