This weekend, while my mother is marking her birthday and her father is recovering from a massive stroke, I’m thinking of this photo of the two of them, circa 1960.
At the time, I believe my grandfather was fresh out of the Air Force (hence the old-timey tattoos) and my mom was getting used to a lot of things in the world as the family’s first child. Today, her own children are long out of the nest, she’s working at a college in California and he is the one adjusting to a new world — one where he can’t walk, talk or feed himself. Their roles have reversed in some ways.
My mother is skilled at surrounding herself with beauty, and at creating and adding to the beauty in other people’s lives. My grandpa is truly one of the last real cowboys alive — he was a rancher and recently lived at an Idaho home so remote that he built the road leading to it. In his late 70s he worked every day until the stroke stopped him. They are different in so many ways, but in this picture, I can see the origins of their relationship — a great tenderness that I’ve been privileged to witness.
Happy birthday, Mom. Keep fighting, Grandpa.