I spent the morning at the Homestead with Dawn and Neil and was given a tour of the place. I saw the one room schoolhouse where my Grandfather went to school located on the property. I imagined him walking there each day probably under the supervision of one of his older sisters holding leather strapped books and maybe a lunch pail. I can’t imagine him with hair. I wish I had been able to find a picture of him as a young man. The only ones I have see are when he was in his 70’s and one that showed a younger man probably about 30. Of course people in that day looked older than we do today and they never smiled in photographs. They stared solemnly at the camera as if they were afraid of moving one inch.
There was a picture of my Grandfather with Grandma Moses in the old schoolhouse and I remember that he owned a few of her paintings. I have always wondered if he was a chauvinist as many men of that generation but have the feeling my Grandmother kept him on the straight and narrow. There is a story about how during the war IBM lacked enough factory employees and my Grandmother suggested hiring more women which they did. IBM also had some of the first female executives in the business world. Everything I saw made me want to know more about his childhood in this peaceful valley where he was raised.
Why, I wondered, did he decide at the end of his life to buy his childhood home and create this place where people might gather and enjoy the spiritual nature of life? He left specific covenants as to how it should be used and a generous amount of money to support it. I am grappling with the very strange idea that none of my family cared to visit after his death? Why is this? Why didn’t my father bring us here to show us the farm, the schoolhouse and what had been created?
I am going to think about why the death of my grandfather was a true death in that his memory was not perpetuated by his offspring. Some years ago I was driving around with my daughter in an attempt to entertain her as she had suffered a head injury and wasn’t supposed to do anything strenuous. We were on a highway driving rather aimlessly when I saw a sign for the Sleepy Hollow Cemetery and I remembered my grandparents were buried there.
We exited the freeway and drove to the cemetery parking in the small lot outside the caretaker’s cottage. The caretaker let us know we had only a half hour to see the graves as the place was closing for the day. He took us inside and looked up the correct plot in a thick, dusty book finally showing us on a map where my grandparents graves were located. Annabel and I got back into the car and with Annabel as the navigator we drove through flower beds, shade trees and many leaves still unable to find the right plot. The caretaker had noticed our lost path and came down to guide us correctly to the plot. He told us it was “right down the path from Carnegie.”
The plot was untidy with overgrown trees and a lot of weeds covering the stones. I asked him why it wasn’t in better shape and he replied the endowment had been for $10,000 in 1957 and that had almost run out. There was a lot of room for others to be buried there as my Grandfather was an optimist. His wife was buried about 6 inches lower than he and there was a small headstone for my baby brother. None of my grandparent’s children had chosen to be buried here. The plot seemed enormously sad to me .I imagined my grandparents choosing it and making sure their plot was equal if not grander than those around it. Believing they were creating a place for their family to come to and remember them. Believing they were creating a final resting place for a large clan. Imagine how they would feel should they be able to see what remained of their dream and how lonely a sight it was. What happened?