My Mom's dad was my Grandpa Gene and he was a Poet.
I remember my Grandpa Gene's hand writing. No matter what he was writing; a holiday card, a poem on a lined note pad, or a bank check - he always had a black comb that he used as a ruler and a fancy pen. Each letter he wrote, in his grandpa ruled style was unique. I loved watching him write. Always with patience and gentle care with each stroke of his fancy pen.
I never really appreciated my Grandpa's poetry until I was older. His poetry was mature, deep, heartfelt, introspective, and thoughtful. He published two books and dedicated them to his family. His autograph is signed in each one with his Grandpa ruled style.
Grandpa never really knew what to do with me - the youngest grandkid with a ton of energy bouncing all around plus I was a constant chatter box! I did beat him at every card game of crazy eights. He was always convinced I cheated or changed the rules. Nah, I didn't know how to cheat - I just beat him fair and square! Any time I asked if he wanted to play cards, he always said, "Yes!"
He smoked a cigar, laughed like a tickled bear, wore colorful clothes (including an ascot) accompanied with matching shiny shoes, wore Aramis cologne, drove a huge red Cadillac convertible, loved golf and people, and wrote poems wherever he ventured.
Sometimes while we were out and about on his visits to the PNW, something would inspire a story or poem in Grandpa.
One story I remember, on a drive towards Anacortes, WA one day and out in a tall field, on the side of the road, was an old abandoned farm house. It's windows were broken, the siding was slipping, and the paint was faded and washed away. Grandpa was captivated by this old house and was stirred to tell a story about a family that may have lived there many years ago.
The poem was published in his book "The Knife is Wood" in 1978. A friend of his sketched a farm house that reminded Grandpa of the abandoned old farm house. That sketch has hung in our house for as long as I can remember.
Grandpa always took the opportunity when it presented its self - to write about what was brimming on his heart. This story was a great example. Every time I drive by an old abandoned barn or farm house - this poem comes to my mind.
THEIR OLD FARM HOUSE
"They filled me with their laughter, filled me with their tears' they filled me with their living, filled me with their years...
...So young they were when they built me upon the rich and fertile soil' so young, so full of life they were to brave the hardships and the toil.
Their first-born filled my every room with his strong lungs and homemade toys; they named him John, his father's name, he was the first of seven boys.
All seven boys had Bible names, inscribed in family's Book of Truth; the family prayed for one small girl, a blue-eyed blonde they could call Ruth.
But soil and wife could bear no more, the winds had come to blow away the fertileness that both had known - left powdered dust and empty clay...
...And now I stand forgotten here with glassless eyes that can't reflect the morning sun, the waving wheat, the dreams of young in retrospect."
~ Gene Griener
One Christmas, when I was in 4th grade, we took a trip to Florida to spend it with Grandpa and Abuela. Our first destination Christmas as a family. It was hot (for us PNW peeps) and my brother, sister, and I loved swimming at the pool in the middle of December. The neighbors thought we were crazy. Later, we traveled to Orlando to take in all the Disneyland play. Disney was the best Christmas present ever (that and my blue 10 speed bike I got when I was in 6th grade)! 1977 was the year it snowed there! It was the frosted flakes of the whole trip!
Grandpa used to have a notepad on his nightstand just in case a poem came to him while he was dreaming. He'd scribble them down in the dark, and the next morning, he'd interpret the scribbles. I have a note pad on my night stand too. Although, I haven't quite mastered the craft of middle of the night scribbles. I hear my grandpa's poetic rhythm as I write sometimes. I don't think he really ever thought I was listening, but I was. It's not what's taught - it's what's caught. Every time I smell a cigar - I think of him.
I thank my grandpa for the special sing song words of poetry. Inspired by that rhythmic flow - these words sprouted through me and out to the world...
"My creative flow of writing has been on hold like a dam holds back the river water. Thankfully, the water rises and needs to be released. Then tons of powerful water full of force let go creating electricity. Electricity creates light. Light creates hope. Hope pushes us forward. Forward to the future." ~ Bridged Atkins
I will close with a poem Grandpa wrote in 1966. It's one of my mom's favorite - mine as well. It's poignant at this very moment we are living in. Thank you Grandpa for sharing your heart, love, faith, and eloquent words.
WHAT COLOR IS GOD? "On the green blanket with white crosses, my feet made no sound. My hands wanted to toss aside the fold, My voice to cry: Awake! Arise! Feel the sun, the rain...
Who are the sons of God? As I walked I read the markers: Pyle, Cohen, Murphy, Kofoed - The names were legion - I had found the answer... What color is God? Here in the palm of His hand, He is White, Brown, Yellow, Black; And here too all Creeds Merge into one color, one faith." ~Gene Griener