Grandpa Nelson

Posted by jdg | 4:12 PM |

I was visiting my grandfather a couple weeks ago and I saw he had this photo framed on the mantle. The first time I'd seen it was at my grandmother's funeral back in 2005, and I remember staring at it then for the longest time. He thinks it was taken in 1936 or 1937, when they were still in high school.  That was his jalopy he used to constantly fix up to drive her down the dirt roads of Lenawee County. They were together almost 70 years.

I told him that I found this photo to be cinematic and cool. It hit me later that they reminded me of Martin Sheen and Sissy Spacek in Badlands (an all-time favorite around here), but better, you know, because this was real and they weren't about to depart on some pointless crime spree. I love their clothes. I love how they have that whole century ahead of them, together. I asked my grandfather if I could borrow it and scan it. A few days ago we drove back down to return it. The kids chased his jack russell around the house, and he told me stories about how the young man in that photo would get up every morning at 4:30 to deliver newspapers and then went right back to work after school was done (and still managed to get elected class president). I thumbed through his high school yearbooks, the scrapbook they made for him of letters written by community members upon his retirement as city water commissioner.

All that life behind him, I thought, watching him hold his great-grandson, with all that life ahead of him.

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