Saturday, October 28, 2006

Grandfather's Last Request

circa 1970

I was just a very young child when my maternal grandfather passed away after losing his battle with cancer. I have very vague memories of him, but have been told by my family that he treated me as if I was very special to him. I like to think that is true.

At the time of his illness, my family did not attend church anywhere. I don't know what denomination my grandfather labeled himself as, but my grandmother was Methodist, so I have to assume that he was as well. He had tried for years to get my parents to start taking us all to church. As he came closer to the end of his battle with cancer, his pleadings became increasingly more urgent. They continued to go unheeded. When he passed away, we still were not attending church.

* * *

My father has always been a man of many talents. Many of which he has allowed to go greatly underutilized. One such talent, that would probably surprise many people who have known him, is a surprising ability to paint. To this very day, I have several oil paintings that he did when I was young. One such painting is of my maternal great-grandparents. My father painted it from a photograph, and it is uncannily realistic.

As I was growing up, I remember this particular painting hanging on the dining room wall of my childhood home. There was another painting my father did from a photograph hanging on the living room wall over the television set: a painting of the grandfather I never really got to know. Beneath this painting, sitting on top of the television, was a clock. It was a small clock styled after it's much larger cousin, the grandfather clock, with pendulum, chimes -- the whole works.

* * *

One day, an unknown number of years after my grandfather's passing (unknown to me, because I have very vague memories of my grandfather but rather vivid memories of what follows), my family was gathered in the house. It must have been a weekend day, because on any given day during the week there would have been hardly anyone home. I remember that the majority of the family -- if not all of us -- were home on this particular day.

We were in the living room watching television -- my dad sitting in his chair, my mother in her's, and I lying on the living room floor in front of the television set. I'm unsure where the rest of the family was, but I'm nearly certain they were all in the house some place.

As we were watching television, there came a rather loud ka-thunk from behind the television set. Startled, we all tried to find the source of the sound. I believe it was my father who first discovered that a picture had fallen from the wall. It was the painting of my grandfather. There had been no apparent cause for the painting to fall from the wall. The windows and door were all closed, eliminating the possibility of any draft. The cats were nowhere to be found.

* * *

This occurred on at least one other occasion, to my knowledge. Again, I remember it as the entire family being home at the time. This time, however, the painting fell from the wall as my father watched. As he later described it, the painting first moved away from the wall just the slightest bit, hovered, then fell. On neither occassion was there any damage to the painting or the frame that held it.

* * *

Such a thing occurring once, with no real eyewitness to the event (we were all just ear-witnesses the first time, so to speak), wasn't much cause for concern. Stranger things have happened. The second time it happened, with my father looking on at the very strange behavior of the painting, presented cause for a bit of concern. But I have no knowledge of the painting ever jumping from it's home over the television after that.

But that wasn't the end of the strange occurrences. You'll remember the clock I mentioned earlier. The miniature grandfather-style clock that sat on top of the television, beneath the jumpy painting. Again, with the majority of the family in the house, and several of us gathered in the living room watching television, we found ourselves dumbstruck. This small grandfather-style clock, weighing enough to require a two-handed lift, went crashing to the floor beside the television. By "crashing," I refer only to the sound the clock made when it struck the carpeted flooring, because it -- like the painting -- sustained no damage.

* * *

Again, that wasn't the end of it. I don't recall how many times this relatively weighty grandfather-style clock went strolling across the television set and diving off, but someone in my family -- I unfortunately cannot remember whom, though I would have to guess that it was my father again -- witnessed this stange occurrence on one occassion. As it was later described, this heavyish clock actually rose from the surface of the television's top just the slightest bit and began moving toward the edge of the set. Ever so slowly it made the trek to the edge of the set and beyond, hovered, then dropped to the floor -- again sustaining no damage.

* * *

As I've said, I don't know exactly how many times the grandfather-style clock took a dive. And I don't know the time span of these events that occurred with the painting and the clock -- I was a very young child of the age when the only meaning the word "time" has is when it's prefixed with "bed-" or "dinner-." But I do know that these strange events did end. They ended when my parents found a church that they felt comfortable with and began taking the family every Sunday.

I can't say that the ending of these strange events and the beginning of a long life of going to church three times a week are connected. I can't say that these strange events are related to my grandfather's long-suffering attempts to get us into a church. I can only say that, at the very least, they are quite coincidental.

* * *

If I remember correctly, the painting I described above -- the one of my mother's father -- currently resides in my brother's possession. I would be surprised if he actually has it hanging on a wall somewhere.

I don't know what happened to the clock.


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