One of the first people I look for when I arrive at the fair each year is the old man who reminds me of my grandfather. He guides a golf cart through the sprawling tents, buildings, carnival rides and food trailers. He stops beside each trash can and aches his way out of his seat. He loads up the garbage. He takes a sip of Coke. Lights a cigarette.
Sometimes he stops to talk, and I try to figure out what it is about him that reminds me of my grandfather. The tan, leathery skin? The slick, gray hair?
He mumbles and smiles and pretends not to recognize me, then laughs and laughs when I pretend to be offended. He rubs his stubble with a calloused hand and complains that this will probably be his last year. I think about how he told me about his family, and his stint in the war, and why preachers are all a bunch of fools. I learned more about him in that ten minute conversation last year than I had in the previous twenty years of seeing him at the fair.
He drives past the tent again, and peers inside, but doesn’t see me through the clear plastic window. But I see him, my grandfather, and I realize that it’s the fact that he rarely smiles with his mouth, but his eyes are almost always smiling. That’s it. That’s my grandfather.
And I think we probably all remind each other of someone else, and perhaps that’s reason alone to be kind and to live a good life, because you never know which long-gone person you are resurrecting. There’s honor in being a living reminder of the best of someone, and not the worst.