I was thinking about something last week while my team lost our final curling match of the season.
My Grandfather (maternal, I never knew my paternal) died when I was twenty years old. I remember very few moments of my early childhood, but those that I do involve his errorless hand. Not in some creepy Jim Jones way, but merely as the trusted family elder who knew a lot of things about a lot of things. All of my uncles, competent men who were experts in their fields, would defer to him and ask his opinion.
When Grandma moved out of their house a couple years later, I was just starting to curl at the St. Paul club, so my mother nabbed his old trophies for me as they were clearing out the house. I thought, wow, my grandfather led his team to victory! After six seasons of playing the game myself I now know that this, of course, is not even remotely true. Curling is a four-person game. From the order of names on the trophies in my den I would guess my granddad played second or third for his team. So there is a good chance he got chewed out on a semi-weekly basis. Don’t get me wrong – curling is a tactful sport, it’s not like anyone was tearing into him, but if he flashed a take-out, or hogged a guard, I’m sure his teammates let him know just how short he fell of their expectations.
It is a really odd thing… picturing my grandfather, the family patriarch, as a curler. Picturing someone turning to my grandfather, sacred elder of my childhood, and calling, “why weren’t you on that earlier, chucklehead?!” This is not the portrait I have of him in my mind (perhaps my mother’s may come closer to that than mine). The vision makes him instantly more relatable, not the wise distant elder, but some bumbling guy who happened to sire five children (and he was a great father who did raise them well). I have to say I think I prefer this idea of him. I never really saw too many likenesses between us until I could imagine him stepping out onto the sheet and forgetting he had his gripper off and landing ass-first on the ice. Or having to buy the first round after the game because he missed his last shot. He has attained a hallowed place in my pantheon of Stoic Old Men Who Talk Straight, but the idea of him throwing 42 pounds of granite across the ice makes him seem like a fallible human again. It is so easy to canonize the dead, and some people will always condemn you if you try to make them human. I however am happy to see the ills of my heroes so I know I can someday hope to become a shadow of what they were on this Earth. So thanks, Grandpa - you still have mighty big shoes for me to fill, but with this new perspective I at least have a fighting chance.