It has been a while now since I returned from Painted Post and the birthplace of my grandfather and I am still mulling over what I discovered on the trip. Someone asked me today what I had learned from the experience and I replied I had gained compassion for my grandfather and an understanding of his character.I hadn’t realized what I had learned until the moment I replied to the question. Sometimes in life we go on journeys and have no idea what we are looking for nor what we hope to find. That’s what my visit to Painted Post was for me: an odyssey. I think I wanted to find an explanation as to why we had all but forgotten my grandfather once he was dead. We didn’t honor his birthday or his day of death. We didn’t visit his grave. No one seemed to want to tell stories about him. There were no photo’s in our house of him, only a large painting which was eventually placed under a white wooly blanket in the attic. Nope, nothing…Once he was dead he was forgotten for the most part. Strangely enough, stories about him were missing in our childhood lore. In my original family we tell stories all the time about my father and my children are very familiar with his past and some of the funny or unusual things he did. We often tell them again when we are reminded of him in some way. We do this because we want to keep his memory alive and he was an interesting and funny man. I don’t think my grandfather was very funny or even a tiny bit funny. As a matter of fact I don’t remember my father telling one funny story about my grandfather.
Once I saw the farm where Grandfather had grown up I understood his character better as I could imagine the routine life held for his family in Painted Post. The land is extremely beautiful and I am certain the farm required a lot of constant work. I think a farmer’s life is soothing in its routine and stressful in the rigors of raising crops and tending animals. My grandfather was a man of strict discipline and dedication to every detail of starting a company. He kept up a schedule most of his life that any person would have trouble following for one week. I like to think every now and again he stopped, sat down, and enjoyed himself but somehow I doubt it. He was a child of rather new immigrants to this country who had changed their name from “Wasson” to “Watson”. The original name of Wasson was still on the deed to the farm which was displayed inside a glass case in the front hall of the homestead. I find this name change endearing and wish I could have been a part of the family discussion around this issue. I wonder who thought of the name change first?
It is interesting to wonder why certain families hold their history close to their heart, nurturing and protecting the stories through careful retelling and remembering ,while others let them die a quiet death.