On Remembering

I started this weblog to document a documentary I was going to make, a remembrance of sorts of my grandfathers. That film has been subsumed into the souvenir series. This week, even though he was never the subject of that film, I’ve been thinking about my great-grandfather a lot, too. That’s because he died in 1982, at age 90. He had a shorter battle with Alzheimer’s than Reagan did. These men differed in other ways, too:
Reagan: Cut a deal to keep US hostages in Iran until after his election. Incubated Islamic militarism and, ultimately, Osama Bin Laden. Armed Saddam Hussein. Sent Rumsfeld to offer support while he gassed the Kurds. OK’ed the invasion of Lebanon. Cut and ran after terrorists killed US Marines. Sold heavy weaponry to Iran to fund right-wing death squads in Nicaraqua. Prevented the government from addressing the AIDS epidemic. Invaded Grenada.
Great-grandfather: Put a plow on a tractor and plowed under half a field of fullgrown corn next to his house before someone ran out to stop him.
Reagan: Conflated speeches with actions.
Great-grandfather: Never said much.
One of my earliest memories of him was a visit we made one summer when I was 4 or 5. I was already too much a city kid, or a suburban kid, really; visiting the farm was already an exotic, scary adventure.
He was wearing worn overalls and a tan shirt. We were kneeling under a giant willow tree in my grandparents’ backyard (they’d built just down the street; my grandfather had followed his father into farming.), and he was showing me the carrots growing around its base. He pulled one out and offered it to me to taste. It was small, too early to harvest then, but highly marketable as a baby carrot now, I’d imagine. It’s got dirt on it, I recoiled, you have to wash it first. He smiled and brushed some dirt off it, and started nibbling on it himself. Then he pulled out another one and offered it to me. Flush with thrilling fear, I ate an unwashed carrot straight from the ground.