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Echoes of a Grandfather I Never Knew

I’m reading some stories compiled from my second-cousin David (my father’s cousin), and peppered through his reminiscences are little slices about my grandfather, Don Archer ( ). This is a man that if you’ve been following my blog entries, has been an empty entity to me — a man who up until recently I only thought of as leaving his wife and family and being a general bastard. Last month I met my great-aunt Norma, my grandfather’s sister, and on the trip down to Southern California, where she lives, and with the brief conversation I had with Norma, I started to see a window into a man that was more complex and more caring and more a man I wish I could have known. I saw a picture of a man who cared about his family, who truly had a good heart, and also had his weaknesses as well. In short, he appeared to be a man and father, like any of the rest of us. Here are a few things that David had to say:

“We finally caught up with Jeff, who was working nights and going to seminary classes during the days. He was a duplicate of his father, Don Archer, in many ways except he didn’t have the same bad habits. Jeff knew the importance of perseverance, hard work, and diligence”

“…Don Archer who believed there were only two kinds of women in the world: virgins and prostitutes.”

“Don gave the box of oranges away to some little kids along side of the road and told them in Spanish to take them to their mother. They evidently understood him because they responded with "Gracias, Senor". Don beamed with benevolence saying he should bring a box of oranges over the border every time they visited, because the Mexican kids were starving.”

“We were invited to sleep out at Don’s and Delores’s backyard in sleeping bags that night. The next day we got up and noticed that their back yard had two large Italian fig trees that were loaded with fruit. Some of the figs were on the ground, so we helped ourselves to breakfast. When Don saw us eating figs he told us to take as many as we wanted. We got a plastic sack and filled it full of ripe figs.”

Reading David’s stories makes me thing of my own father, and how easy it can be to resolve someone to their shortcomings, and gloss over their positive aspects. It also makes me think of my own childhood years, and how it would serve me well to try to capture those moments while I still remember them with any relative vividness. I think I might start a collective blog for the sole purpose of capturing tales from my and my friends’ childhoods — our shared time together, and our times alone and apart. It’d be a sort of collective autobiography. I also think about what sort of impressions I’m leaving on my own children, and who they will think I am, and how they will portray me to their own children, when the time comes. Age and perspective can be a humbling thing.

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