The excerpt from Wendell Berry’s latest book was for me a Christmas gift to savor. It stirred memories and reflections about grandfathers. As Berry suggests, the grandparents of people my age lived in a different world from ours. They never boarded an airplane or booted up a computer. Before the days of joint replacement surgery, many were partially crippled and lived with pain. “My rheumatism is acting up . . . the lumbago is bad today, Johnny” one of my grandfathers used to say as he struggled up the steps to the house, leaning heavily on my arm and the handrail. I am stunned to realize that he was the age I am now.
He was a large man, a foreman in the Pennsylvania Railroad repair shops. His oldest son was killed in World War II and his wife died at about the same time. I liked being around him. I loved him in a way at the time, but, like Berry’s character Andy Catlett in his relationship to his grandfather, I know him better and love him more now.