I write at my grandfather’s desk, the one with the top that folds down revealing seven small compartments and eight tiny drawers. The drawers smell like cedar and the inside of a barn. It has a million scratches, a million stories, and I’ve checked it many times for a secret compartment, something left behind, something valuable.
This is the grandfather who sometimes went missing. I imagine his children would get in the car and search for him in the fields, the headlights lurching, although if it happened when they were still Amish, the headlights would be replaced by flashlights and scampering feet. I wonder what the child who found him would say, or ask. Maybe they simply stood there, shining the light, and maybe he slowly rose from where he had been sitting or lying in the field and followed the beams home.
What do you say to a father found in a field?
* * * * *
I was wondering on this hot July afternoon what my grandfather might have done at this desk. Pay the bills, I suppose. Perhaps he wrote letters to his children once they moved away to Missouri and Texas and Louisiana, although he doesn’t strike me as the letter-writing type. Maybe he sat and stared at the wood grain, as I sometimes do, and wonder about the future.
He became quite the entrepreneur—maybe he dreamed up some of his ideas sitting at this desk. Maybe he sketched out drawings or business plans or maybe numbers were the furthest thing from his mind. Maybe he only had dreams.
I can relate with that.
As I sat here at this desk today, thunderstorms passing to the north so that the rain didn’t reach us, I wondered what it would be like if he could sit right her beside me. I could show him the framed cover image given to me by my editor, the one I keep on top of my desk. Or the boxed set of famous poets; I wonder if he would like William Wordsworth or Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Or maybe some Emily Dickinson:
The bustle in a house
The morning after death
Is solemnest of industries
Enacted upon earth
I would turn around and show him my books on the bookshelf, the words I have written. I imagine him frowning with a kind of serious satisfaction.
I would tell him it is okay that he sometimes went missing, that all of us want to disappear from time to time.
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