Having a twin is a fearful business, sharing so much for so long.
He and his sister were precluded from the usual mischief of identicals, so their bond and boldness brought new imaginings of misbehavior. They were without guile, merely sharing together the last of five births. Two surviving elder siblings, likewise sister and brother, already carved roles as dutiful firstborn and budding black sheep. To the twins in those early days, then, fell blind love and none-too-watchful parents. The farm meant work, and neither keeping up nor getting in the way was open to them.
They had adventures lavished on them by the land. Tadpoles needed snatching, blood-red clay needed molding, dogs needed chasing. Someone invariably wound up locked in the smokehouse, stuck on the sandbar in the creek, or dangling from that lowest pecan limb just high enough to make the ground too far away. Getting caught meant a wink and playful smack; a switching and dinnerless bedtime awaited discovery of more grievous transgression. Most of these were concealed by the unspoken pact between them to which all children subscribe, that the silence of both was to be preferred to the punishment of either. Eighty years hence, hints of those mutual secrets (embarrassingly innocuous) were ever visible in the mirth of their meetings.
This was originally written as a eulogy for my grandfather, Errol Grant Myhand (1924-2011). I spent a week or two with him on the family land in Pine Mountain, Georgia, almost every summer from age 4-21 (and plenty of other times as well), so writing this a day after his passing left it very sentimental. Nearly four years hence, I wouldn’t change a thing. I’m reposting it here a) because you’ll know me better through this, and b) in honor of my grandmother’s 89th birthday next week.
I’ve heard it said that the chain of wisdom always skips a generation; that the lessons of lives long lived are instilled in grandchildren by their grandparents while their parents are working to make ends meet.
That’s not to say that our parents are not wise, rather that our ability to absorb their wisdom as children is clouded by familiarity, authority, and selfishness–we’re predisposed to doubt what they tell us until we grow up to realize they knew exactly whereof they spoke. In the time between birth and that epiphany of maturity, God interposes grandparents.
Family portrait, 1929. He and Aunt Edna (his twin sister) were almost 5 here.
Maybe we listen to them because they’re a curiosity–we don’t see them daily as we do our parents, gray hair and glasses make them seem softer, their habits and customs from an earlier time are both confusing and inviting. Maybe we let them teach us because they offer us love with an infinite patience bolstered by the peace and quiet of living somewhere else (without kids) most of the time.
Whatever the reasons, this cross-generational transfer of wisdom seems to be part of the design of life. Thinking of this after losing Papaw, It’s hard to look at my life and values without seeing his fingerprints everywhere.