a solitary saturday

I didn't have any plans for today except for returning home to Antioch this evening to reunite with high school friends and celebrate one of our peer's, and my fellow Cal Bear's, college graduation. The weather was beautiful as ever, and on a whim, I decided to go for a walk to explore my neighborhood by foot for the first time.

I walked a short distance on Piedmont, taking notice of a few shops that had never previously caught my eye. I took in the quaintness of it all, and I felt happy with the decision I made to move out here, in a place full of life and culture. I headed towards Telegraph and 51st for the Temescal Street Fair. Once I got there, I popped by Walgreen's to buy a bottle of water and was solicited by a young boy requesting donations to help send his basketball team to Atlanta for a national competition. Though I normally decline these sort of requests, his soft-spoken tone and downward stare softened my heart, and I gave a small donation to his cause. Whether or not he'll actually use it to help fund his trip to Atlanta, I'll never really know. At the very least, it was less money I had to spend on frivolous snacks.

I browsed the booths lining the blocks between 51st and 48th. Most were selling Native-inspired jewelry and hand painted drawings; nothing that really sparked my interest. I stopped to watch a youth jazz band play a tune, which was enjoyable. I walked in a few stores, all of which I had only ever seen in passing as I drove my car from Oakland to Berkeley. I found a game store that held tournaments for patrons, and I smiled at the adorable group of old men readying themselves for a round of Scrabble. I took a peek at Bakesale Betty's and stood in awe in front of their display of cookies and cakes. The best part, by far, was the number of dogs trundling along Telegraph with their owners, wagging their tales and enjoying the sunshine.

A little over half an hour after my arrival, I decided there wasn't much else I wanted to take a look at. I walked back towards home, stopping by Long's to make a copy of my house key for my Something New Sunday partner in crime. I continued up Pleasant Valley Road and slowed as I approached the cemetery. I couldn't remember the last time I had visited my grandfather's grave, which lead me to believe it had been too long. I had no other plans for the afternoon, so I went to the flower shop on the corner, bought some daisies, and proceeded to the cemetery.

As I entered the grand gate at the end of Howe Street, my iPod, which had been playing at random, ceremoniously switched to Seasons of Love from Rent. Quite appropriate, I thought. I walked up the winding path to my grandfather's grave and considered how beautiful the cemetery really was. Perched on top of the Oakland hills, you can easily view large portions of the city, and from the side where my grandfather's grave is located, the Golden Gate Bridge looms across the Bay.

After tracing the familiar path, I quickly found my grandfather's grave, cleaned off the fallen leaves just as I had seen my grandmother do so many times before, and placed my flowers on top of his grave marker. In the 17 years since my grandfather's passing, I had never visited his grave on my own. I thought that much of my desire to do so today had stemmed from the fact that I had experienced so much loss in the past couple of weeks, and I was still searching for answers or, at the very least, a little bit of comfort. Also, with Father's Day just a few hours away, I decided it would be nice to visit my grandfather and tell him that after all these years, I still thought of him.

I stood there and tried to conjure up memories of the short time we had together. The best I could do was elicit images of faded photographs and hear my father's voice telling me stories of his childhood. I do have one vivid memory of my grandfather's life from the year prior to his sudden death. I was visiting him and my grandmother at their home in Oakland, and he was showing me how to fold a piece of paper into a boat. He then turned the boat over and said it was now a toilet. At four years old, I thought that was the most hilarious thing ever. I ran out of the room, shrieking with laughter, beckoning my grandmother to show her what I learned. The only other memories I have of him are of his funeral and burial, things I couldn't comprehend at that age. 17 years later, I'm ashamed that I never felt any sorrow.

I stared at my own last name engraved on his marker, and I thought of all the things we never had to share. I never got to know his wisdom or hear stories of his life. I never got to know his sense of humor. I was never introduced to his talents, many of which I firmly believe I inherited, particularly my mind for mathematics and my love for singing.

Until today, I've never let myself think that I could possibly miss someone who was never really a part of my life. But standing there, I came to understand that we can be incredibly affected by the actions or non-actions of others. I stood and wished for things I knew could never be possible. In that moment, his death finally felt real.

And for the first time since his passing in 1989, I cried for the loss of my grandfather.


Kris said...

Unrelated to your post, but you might be interested in this:

It's some short videos I have of you guys from solo switch. Unfortunately, my memory card isn't too big, and I didn't realize it until later, so some of the songs get cut off. I reccomend downloading them before watching, as some are kinda big. Also, they're really amateur and jerky, but they're fun for memories and a laugh.

MattK (Section 2) said...

Just as there can not be black without white, there can not exist life without death, happiness without sadness... the contrasts are what create the meanings, time having no bearing on any of it.

I'm sure your grandfather is very pleased with who you've become, and even your belated feelings for him. The fact that you feel for him so many years after his death and on your own accord is remarkable, I'm sure he shared in tears with you.