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.

  1. Visit the Yankee Candle Factory.
  2. Visit the Williamsburg General Store
  3. Visit Mt. Tom
  4. 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.

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Until then, rest easy Grandpa.

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