Heroes, Part 2

He was a veteran of both World Wars, lying to get into World War I when he was too young and maneuvering to get into World War II when he was too old. He was a quasi-Socialist, a newspaperman, a nature lover and the best grandfather — the finest man, next to my husband — anyone could have.

Edward Emerine died 27 years ago this week, a casualty of the Alzheimer’s that lingered an uncommonly long time and robbed this brilliant, kind, courageous man of his intellect, his voice, and the gentleness honed by his experiences in war. He was my father’s father, a steadying and towering presence in my youth who adored me when I was not always terribly lovable. He was handsome — Arizona-tanned skin made rough and wrinkled by daily three- or four-mile walks, always with a rock in his hand to prevent an old boxing injury from seizing up his fingers. He had Barry Goldwater’s stately white hair and none of his politics; he was a mentor of the late Mo Udall’s, who I remember was the only man taller than he was.

He smoked a pipe and smelled of rich, tanned leather and hearty rolled tobacco, and I suspect that when he once found a bag of marijuana on one of his walks, he likely rolled a joint and gave it a try — and then ripped into me for even, ever, thinking of smoking pot, long before I’d ever thought to. Like my parents, he was a vehement critic of the Vietnamese War, refusing to be silent on its evil, never muzzling the voice of horror that poured from him because of his experiences in war. He had a gentleman’s bourbon on the rocks every night and managed to pound away for hours on his old Royal typewriter, the one in my basement now, while sipping his Ten High and puffing on his pipe. And what he wrote was brilliant. Brilliant, unabashedly liberal, and rarely ever popular with the powers that were.

In the old days of print journalism, the editor was reporter, typesetter, and editorialist. He was almost by definition a firebrand; the small-town journalism of the American West in the ’40s, ’50s, and ’60s didn’t coddle reporters and often ran them out of town when liberal sentiments clashed with conservative ideals. But my grandfather was a resilient man. It was a badge of honor that he told the truth — always, although perhaps not always gently — and he was willing to take the punches that came with it. But he would not risk his integrity for stability; it probably made my grandmother’s and my father’s lives more difficult than they could’ve been, but he represented utter honesty, the very best of liberalism, and genuine decency every day I got to be with him. He called me his co-editor, his great joy, and his girl, and until he died, no one but me knew that he had written a novel, and no one but me ever knew that he never allowed me to pay a cent when I backed into his car just two weeks or so after I got my driver’s license. He was my sounding board and I was protege’, and he was everything I ever wanted to be.

He and Grandma Lou lived, most of my life, just a couple of blocks from me. I saw him every day and at least a couple of days a week when he had to go to the nursing home. During the last two years of his battle with Alzheimer’s, he usually didn’t recognize me. That was sad, but he could receive affection and attention, and he knew that someone — many someones — loved him. On one of my last visits with him, the staunch agnosticism I remember during my youth gave way to a moment I’ll treasure forever. I had wheeled him toward a window that looked out on a rose garden. Alzheimer’s left him looking more robust than his brain truly was. His syntax was a wreck, his vocabulary often vulgar when comprehended, and he hadn’t been lucid for awhile, but for one very brief moment, he looked at the roses and said, “I believe they are God’s. Why don’t they see that?” I pray that somehow he came to know the love of Jesus Christ, who could penetrate the haze and the depths when none of us could. I miss him even after almost 30 years, and I hope in Christ that I can see him again.

Not many of us get to grow up with our heroes, and I grew up a better person because of my Papa.

8 Responses to “Heroes, Part 2”

  1. marc says:

    I simply loved this. Thank you so much for sharing.

    You WILL see him again.

    Blessings,

    marc

  2. Thanks, Marc. You would’ve liked him.
    Keely

  3. Thanks, Keely. I appreciate it and he would have, too.
    One anecdote (of many): Dad’s Idaho Farm Journal and Boise Journal were
    the only two papers in the entire state that Idaho Power Co. wouldn’t
    advertise in because he opposed building power-generating dams in some
    of the state’s most scenic rivers. He valued his decision to not cave
    in more than he valued the thousands of dollars it cost him over 14
    years.
    Love, Dad

  4. I’m glad you liked it, Dad, and I’m not surprised he would take a stand like that.
    Love, your daughter

  5. Please note that the comment from my father, Steve Emerine, came by way of my computer because his ancient Web TV-based system doesn’t support my Google/Blogger interface, so he emailed me the comments and asked that I put them in.
    Keely

  6. This comment has been removed by the author.

  7. I wish I could have met him…but I know he’d be proud of his granddaughter.

    Jonah

  8. (Jonah is my son, writing on my computer). Thank you, love. He would’ve been so proud of you.
    Mom

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