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Is the past gone forever…. or is there life after death?

December 29, 2015

bowlTonight I was standing outside my son’s home adding my contribution to climate change while polluting my lungs and for some reason my mind drifted, (it does this quite a bit lately), to my father and memories I have of him. When I turned back to look inside the house at my granddaughter I wondered just how she would remember me. I think what will imprint most will be the many trips to the yard to have a cigarette, not the little talks we had about nothing in particular. Not the moments when grandpop actually managed to get down on the floor and spent time admiring her creative efforts or for that matter the words of praise when she would show me a book she just finished reading or a new color on her Tae-kwon-do belt, and I had to wonder why? In some cultures elders are revered and stories about their lives are passed from one generation to the next. Not that I am even remotely a figure to be revered but now our young never learn of their grandparents or great grandparents lives or accomplishments.

The green bowl in the lead picture is a case in point. It is an old worn and scratched Pyrex bowl with the imprint ‘made in America’ circa 1950’s. To most people nowadays it would no doubt be treated as trash, but to me it is a link to wonderful past memories of my mother. On first sight it evoked a memory of the hundreds of times my mother made chocolate pudding from scratch. I could even for an instant smell the rich aroma and remember ‘cutting’ the tick layer of pudding crust from the top of that dessert. Or more poignantly the last time she made Lithuanian cold beet soup. This memory is a two edge soward because I videotaped her as she made the soup in that bowl and a couple months later she passed away. But this is what I am writing about… memories not only about certain Christmas rituals, but the lives of parents, grandparents and great grandparents.

In most early cultures around the world children would be told ‘stories’ of the elders lives and adventures almost on a daily basis. Even today in Alaska in some of the remote villages the young men of the village are taught how to hunt or fish based on the traditions of their elders.  This ‘knowledge’ that may have been passed down for many generations is now in danger of being lost forever. With todays fast paced culture parents rarely take the time to ‘tell stories’ of their parents or grandparents to their children, because most of them, both parent and child, have their heads buried in their tablets or phones. So to take some time to talk about grandmom Mary and her lifes strugles and accomplishments now seems boring to them.

I feal we should find a way to make these past lives interesting enough that our children will hold onto those stories and they themselves will pass the stories on to their children. For when you keep alive the past of our ancestors they will never truly be gone.

I have walked the snow capped mountains here in Alaska

floated down its majestic rivers

walked side by side with wolves, bear and moose

and during all this time

my father, mother and wife were with me

in my heart and soul

and they will never die as long as my heart beats.


8 Comments leave one →
  1. December 29, 2015 11:27 am

    this morn …my aunt called..beckia she says …do you remembe if your mom and or my mom added someting to the water when they soaked beans….no says i but let me look it up on net….sure enough it was a thing done during depression times to speed up soak time and it was said to help release gases in the soaked item….i call her back and share what i had found we begin to talk about things our mothers did …before i hung up i tell her my mothers mother use to peal and cut up a apple in bottom of water filled bowl she soaked her bean in ….answer to question pete ..yes she wil rememeber you and all the things you did … the eye contact ….the smell of your cigs…the way you twist your lips or how you held your coffee mug….she will even remember the time you came to be with her and times you could not …we are but the memories of those before us .amazing write pete amazing write …thanks again for the trip back in time


  2. December 29, 2015 11:42 am

    What a poignant post. I don’t have too many good memories of my grandparents as on one side they were not very nice people. On the other side I never knew my grandpa and my grandmother wasn’t around when I was little…she was across the country. I’ve never had the cozy, loving family that I see so many others have. On a happy note, I LOVE those bowls! I think they’re making replicas of those as I’ve seen some similar at Sur La Table, a popular kitchen store. I hope your grandchildren remember you fondly. :) I think the fact that you’re even wondering shows the kind of grandpa you are. They are lucky little ones!! I hope you had a Merry Christmas Pete. :)


  3. December 29, 2015 8:06 pm

    Thanks for the thought provoking post. I try to tell my daughter the stories my Dad told me, his favorite tales of boyhood shenanigans and I hope she carries them with her always, even though she doesn’t really remember him. I can’t let those stories die, they were a favorite part of my childhood.
    There are so many things I try to burn in my memory so I won’t forget…things that I want to pass on to my daughter, or things that I hope she is seeing for herself as she visits with her grandmother.
    We take so much for granted that we let memories slip through our fingers.


  4. December 30, 2015 12:54 am

    Great post Pete. I myself have very few memories of my paternal grandparents and my maternal grandparents there are but only a limited amount of memories… but to surmise.. yes, they will remember the things as you do.. whom dirtied their lungs or the spittoon, The smell of cologne or lack thereof and ultimately whether or not you were willing to take the time… which is also true of children.. If we take the time with all people, related or not, that is how we will be remembered.. shortcomings can be forgiven if we showed we cared or they may just be a sidenote to the story. The memories of fishing, baking, or telling a story of our past, will be remembered much more strongly… and as I have found with some of my relatives, when they recount what my grandparents stories were, their recollection seems to miss some key details I remembered hearing first hand from the elder. Some of these key details have proven valuable when doing research… Hope your Christmas was great and your New Year Blessed. 73


  5. TriciaLynn Burokas permalink
    December 30, 2015 2:18 am

    I remember grandmom making breakfast, scrambled eggs, in that green bowel.


  6. December 30, 2015 8:56 am

    Another great piece, Pete! Sadly you hit the ole nail squarely on the head; our culture has been brainwashed by Madison Avenue and the great consumer madness to believe what is important is youth, physical appearance and material ‘things’. Is it any wonder so many people cannot ‘find’ themselves after living this lie for decades? I was one of those who at maybe 30 years of age came to realize something was missing in my existence but it took me almost 30 more years to finally understand I’d embraced a hollow lifestyle and no amount of money could ever become something meaningful let alone give true purpose to my life. At this point I’m just so pleased I at least did finally make the connection and then acted on it. I consider myself one of the lucky ones because having grown up during the turbulent 60’s and the solipsistic 70’s at least I’d dabbled in philosophies and belief systems outside of western lifestyles rife with rampant materialism. I fear for so many of younger generations as there is still almost no support within popular American culture for beliefs and/or lifestyles that don’t worship materialism and narcissism. And sadly there is no appreciation of the value of age regarding perspective and wisdom. We could learn so much in this area from the Oriental cultures…


  7. Jon permalink
    December 31, 2015 7:31 am

    I knew only one of my grandparents; it was my Dad’s dad. He passed on in ’59 when I was just 5 years old. But I know every time we went to the farm to visit, you went passed everyone else to see Grandpa first. And yes there was the spittoon on the floor by the couch arm & frequently the smell of brandy on him. But he wanted to know what you’d been doing & if you’d been good. His wife was gone long before & he raised 12 kids by himself & with limited English speaking skills. My Dad was the oldest one & quit school to help out at home.

    My Mom’s parents I never knew. They were gone before my parents even met. Can’t remember how Grandma died but Grandpa committed suicide in 1932. Didn’t know about that until my cousin told me in the early 90s. People in those days never talked about hard times, they just soldiered on.


  8. unalaska permalink
    January 3, 2016 1:25 pm

    This is exactly why I love living in a small community. My children grew up immersed, not only in family, but in community. We say memory eternal.


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