by Steve Gaines

my grand father was a nineteenth century man
born…
as I recall…
sometime in the late seventies…
maybe early eighties
anyway…
by the turn of the century he was a young man

as a product of that “ancient time”
he might have been a cowboy
or a mountain man
…or a rough-rider
or almost anything
from my early movie moments

he wasn’t…

what he was…
was a romantic…
not in the poetic sense
you understand
but a kind of dreamer
…an adventurer
…something of a nomad
a wanderer through time and space…
occasionally away from hearth and home
occasionally away from an insistent wife
…a perpetual child in the long run
but a man of great beginnings…
a complete participant in his life and times
…always looking for something
but not always finding it…

I knew him only as an “old man”
a story teller
an interesting piece of living history
a man who could explain nothing
in the empirical sense of “modern times”

but who could make you understand
simply because he had been there!

his stories gave goose bumps
not less the fifth time as the first…

He had been a young man
as the century began
I…
now…
am an “old man” at it’s end…
we have split the hundred years between us curiously…
he, a few years more than the first half
me, fourteen years plus the last half

I have my own stories…I suppose
not half so “romantic” as his were…
for my many grand children to wonder at

but are they necessary I wonder…as were his?

history has become too vivid
collected and available
in great and accurate detail
an “on-line” experience for all to share…
no need for the colorful remembrances…
its all on film…
or tape…
or CD…
or whatever other modern marvel there is currently
whatever real time encyclopedia
that can swallow up
and spit out
the entire story of man at the pressing of a key

my grand father would never have believed it…
his was not a scientific curiosity…
it would have puzzled him
…confused him
it would have saddened him I think

what need is there now
for colorful old men
and their stories
their exaggerations and boast…?

time has begun to speed up
beyond our sense
to understand it…
by the seat of our pants!
the way I developed my curiosity…
the way I found my way over the ground
of history living best on the guesses I had inherited from him
…my grand father that is!

Not my father!
…in spite of all his science
and necessary information

I became
the dreamer from a generation back…

from my grand father and his age…
long on remembering and telling
fond of the flavor of description and yesterday
but short on precision and other definitions

theirs was a time of soft truths and unfocused pictures…
moments I enjoyed the contemplation of like the movies…
silent black and white pictures
like Saturday morning continuing serials

a time of larger than life events
made even larger by the telling of them…

a beautiful and impossible past gone by

a time of “living in the moment”
no longer a reasonable alternative

I will miss it …
as I miss my grand father
gone now these many decades
leaving me…
a sad shadow of his vague instructions…
behind…
without such dimensions that he possessed
without such wonder
and imaginary moments
to share with the coming generations…
with only the century old memories
he filled me with so long ago…
and not the grace or technique
to bring them to life again…

he left me somehow out of place…
an anachronism in this curious future…
a child of mid-century…
a relic of no particular moment…
steeped in no
great adventure
born too late…
born too soon…
born in the simple days of transition
between the pioneers
and the cyber-space arena of today…

full of his yesterday
and full of the great adventure
our grand children head toward
as much a dream I suppose…
as way back when
but all too simply defined and understood…
laid out with precision and exactness…
a dream only for the “informed!”

my grand children…
the 21st century dreamers
do not know him…
except for my inadequate ramblings
aware only vaguely
of his distant existence
saddled for the future
and anxious for tomorrow’s adventure
going into that great unknown
well informed and
fully defined

going with joy over the next far hill…
Y2K or not!

wearing the old genetic image…
a nose here…
a chin…
a descending eye lid
pieces of a long line…
the family evolutionary foot prints in time
little chains of DNA falling through space
but something more like a new species
than that simple and romantic 19th century man
I so fondly remember…

post script!

existence confounds me sometimes…
when I start thinking too much
in the middle of another
restless night
at the mercy
of my arthritic shoulders
and inadequate bladder…

but I do enjoy the contemplation
of that confusion…
anyway!
and I do wonder
at the curious words
that result from those thinking bouts

I play with these words
for reasons only the future can invent…
I bring back memories
that never were somehow
I explore the dusty past
my grand father left me
in those long sojourns
through his youth

I am no more complete
with all this wondering
I am gifted
with no great answers
no metaphors
in those yesterdays
to get me by today

and that’s the point!
answers were never important…
questions were enough
…but I never knew this
until
I started thinking
in the interrupted night

until I started putting down
this collection of words…

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