Tomorrow would be my grandfather's 107th birthday.
One would hope that many people have fond memories of their grandfathers, but I was particularly lucky in that department. My grandpa was "America's Chekhov." the playwright and screen-writer, Paul Osborn.
I am not usually one for undue sentiment, and normally this date would pass without much in the way of nostalgia, but Grandpa's chair broke--a seeming non-sequitor, but beyond meaningful for me. The chair I speak of is a substantial part of my memories of him. Back when he bought it, perhaps the early 50's, it would have been considered modern. A horrible gray color of unknown material that spun about on a metal base, I cannot conjure up a memory that doesn't involve running into his den in the Park Avenue apartment and seeing him sitting in it, at the typewriter, a freakishly huge cat sitting on his lap.
Anyway, when Grandpa died in 1988 I wanted just a few things. Not the Picassos or Bemelmans, not the Hirshfelds or the coin collection he had started as a child. The heavy wooden furniture would have demanded a more stable life than I had at that point. The photographs of Marilyn Monroe and Arthur Miller hiding out at the Connecticut summer house, or the snapshots of my mom swimming before she could walk had not, as yet, made their value, sentimental and financial, known to me. I had no need for the gazillion books (although, in retrospect....,) or his clothes and the cufflinks he wore on his dinner jacket, that he allowed me to put on him as a little girl before going to some soiree---I, regret now, fell to some other family member.
I wanted two things. His awards and his chair.
The awards are prized possessions. I have his two Oscar Nominations, his Screenwriter's Guild Box Office Awards, his Laurel Award--there are more than a dozen of these tributes to a quiet mid-westerner who's love of words he shared with the world.
I have his Tony Award, which is even more meaningful because Tony herself, Antionette Perry, was Grandpa's patron who paid him to stop being an engineer on the Long Island Railroad, and allowed him to write full time. I wish she could have been alive to have seen her namesake award given to someone who's talent she obviously believed in. That is the sort of magic I have come to have complete faith in.
But his chair---It isn't irrevocably broken. I am confident that a trip to Home Depot will do it, but the sadness I feel at looking at it, laying on the floor so no one actually sits on it by accident and ends up having it fall and kill a dog (little dogs, chihuahuas and chins,) has brought me to tears. This year, probably for the first time since his death, I won't be sitting in his chair on Grandpa's birthday.
I sit on that silly chair every time I am at the computer, be it ranting on about some religious injustice or slight, or to type up a note to excuse an absence for one of my kids in school. I sit in that chair and feel secure, and strong, and ever so special because that great man loved me.
I can't suddenly forget who I am and pretend that Grandpa is looking down on me from Heaven. I owe him too much to be that dishonest. I can't abandon all I know to be true about this being the only life I'll ever have, and that when Grandpa died he was completely over and out.
What I can do, what I try to do, is make my life as meaningful and eternal as he did. As of now, when I am gone, my children will carry parts of me with them, but beyond that there isn't much for the ages.
Yet a day doesn't pass when South Pacific or East of Eden isn't on cable. A month doesn't pass when I don't get a check for some little town's production of On Borrowed Time or, the play that is my family's history, Morning's At Seven. Grandpa will never be forgotten because his work lives on.
So, I will repair that chair, and I will sit on it, and I will do everything in my power to channel that magic, and find my own way to live forever--just like Grandpa.
5 years ago