Sunday, December 14, 2008


When I was very young, I was confused about my grandfather's name. I knew that my mother's father's name was Charles. However, everyone called him Sammy. To make matters worse, my grandparents always had a sticker on their car from the College of William and Mary, and so since I knew my grandmother was named Mary, I naturally assumed that the college had something to do with them as well.

That is probably my first memory about my grandfather - being confused about his name. (For the record - his name was indeed Charles Watkins Rose, his nickname was Sammy because he was born during World War I when the soldiers were called "Sammy", and so he became his father's "little Sammy", and of course, the college had nothing to do with them besides the fact that their son had gone there.) I have many, many more memories of my grandfather ranging from that early memory to the last time I saw him, which was last Christmas.

I wasn't lucky enough to grow up in the same town as my mother's parents. We always lived at least two or three states away from them. That didn't make them any less precious to me - or I to them. When I think of Christmas and Easter, it is often their house I remember. I recall Christmases in Richmond, Virginia, in the big split-level house they had. One whole level, it seems, was always taken up with the tree and the mounds of presents spilling out from under it. Later, in the big farmhouse on the side of a mountain in New York, there was again an entire room filled with a tree and presents. Christmases with my grandfather were magical because invariably, there were gifts he made in his woodshop. A stool for me. A creche for my mother. A doll-house for my cousin.

Pipe smoke will always remind me of my grandfather. He quit smoking his pipe when I was in middle school, but the smell is forever linked with him. When I was in college, my cousin and I even took up smoking pipes...and probably looked very silly doing it. But oh, that smell. Not many people smoke pipes anymore, but when I run across the odor drifting on the air, I'm immediately transported back to grandpa's side.

I am incredibly lucky. I am 36 years old and until this past Monday, I still had three living grandparents. That's some good genes right there. But early last Monday morning, my grandfather died. He left behind his wife of 66 years, his four children, and his seven grandchildren. He left memories and friends and extended family. He lived a long, productive, loving life. And I will miss him.