Of an age

Papa and Mama Martaindale.

Technical issues are preventing the timely posting of this piece. However, it is being written on Tuesday, January 24, 2023, a matter that contains some importance we will get to later.

I had three grandfathers, but only one Papa.

My mother’s biological father died when she was about 5 years old. I’ve always known that, as well as the story he died as the result of an abscessed tooth, but hardly anything more.

My mother acquired a stepfather when she was, I believe, in high school. She called him Leonard and they were obviously not close … something I think is not unusual considering family dynamics. I called him Pa.

Pa was a good enough grandfather, though. I have a number of good memories – picking cotton at his place in West Texas, the pocket watch he kept in the vest of his coveralls, the Christmas morning he insisted we leave our presents to look at a “robin” in the front yard only to reveal a deep wonderland of snow.

He died in June 1974. I took a day off from my summer job to drive to Oklahoma for the funeral, which led to an invitation from my uncle who lived in Idaho that concluded in me taking my first big trip to visit him at the end of the summer.

Finally, my grandfather on my dad’s side was the man I called Papa. This is about him.

I’ve always felt a particular attachment to him, partly because he, my father and I shared a middle name. The truth, though, is I only have three strong memories of him because he died when I was only 3 years old.

Memory No. 1: My brother and I were at his home and he was giving us rides on his back while he ran around the living room floor on his hands and knees. For whatever reason, it was so much fun. I also remember looking through a crack in the floor and seeing the ground underneath.

Memory No. 2: We walked from his home, my younger brother and I each holding one of his hands, to a little store down the street. As I remember, his mission was to pick up a carton of eggs. As a bonus, Ward and I each scored a candy bar.

Memory No. 3: I was standing next to his casket in the funeral home; he was dead of a cerebral hemorrhage, lying inside. Certainly, there was considerable discussion between my parents and perhaps my grandmother as to whether I should have this experience, but I’ve always been thankful for it.

I must add it is likely that another reason I felt a strong attachment to this man I knew so briefly was because his widow, the grandmother I called Mama, lived another 35 years. I spent a lot of time with her and she was always talking about the man she called Jackson – that middle name we shared.

Jan. 24, 2023

Back to this date.

A couple of months ago, I was researching something, came across Papa’s date of death and it struck me: I’m at that age now.

Specifically, on this date, I am 68 years and 107 days old, the age of Papa when he died.

Morbid? Perhaps. But I remember, years and years ago, wondering if I would live to be as old as Papa. It seemed like such a long time. It doesn’t seem quite so long now.

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