In The Mirror

by Randy Murray on May 8, 2013

I’ve reached that age when I sometimes look into the mirror and see my grandfathers. Both of them are there. It’s a strange but comforting thing.

My Grandpa Murray died in 1967 when I was just seven years old. My grandparents on the Murray were our closest neighbors. We lived in my great-grandfather’s house. The house my grandfather had built for his family was across the field, about a quarter mile away. I knew him as only a grandchild can know a grandparent. The pressures or parenting were gone for him as well as many of the pressures of life. I was born when he was fifty-three, which is my age now. I was his first grandchild and a boy, back when that mattered to men.

I remember him as a quiet, strong man. He wore bib overalls to work on the farm, which my father by then mostly managed and worked. He kept an inexpensive pocket watch on a leather thong in his pocket. I’d stand with him outside his house looking out over the garden and pastures in the evening. There in the shade of the trees and beside the smokehouse and chicken yard he’d slice apples, handing me a piece for every one he ate. Richard William Murray was a good man as far as I could tell. He had a broad forehead and wore round glasses. I see him every day.

My Grandpa Luttrell lived longer, into my adult years, even witnessing my marriage about a year before he died in 1982, but he was diminished by Alzheimer’s disease many of those last years. He ran a garage in the small town of Flora, about forty-five minutes away by car from our farm, but we saw him and my grandmother, Lula, often. He raised his family in a Sears and Roebuck catalog home that he assembled. He was a man who had to be occupied with something. He loved to fish, but wouldn’t eat what he caught. He was a skilled gunsmith—I have one of his restored flintlock rifles hanging in my living room. He was something of a “horse trader” and I would tag along when he went to rummage sales or to pick up parts and see how he would wrangle a deal and take pleasure in every aspect of work. When he grew too old to do fine work he began rebuilding bicycles, selling them to the neighborhood children for a pittance. His hair grew in a strange way that made the top of his head look square.

Exactly as mine does now.

I am clearly not either of these men. They’d find it utterly strange, incomprehensible, that I make my living at a keyboard, not tilling the soil, caring for animals, or making and fixing things with my hands. But I also trust that they’d be proud of me, of the life that I’ve made, how my girls have become strong and talented women, and how I’ve grown into their looks. Grandpa Murray passed at just 60, Grandpa Luttrell at 79. And perhaps, hopefully, I can learn a bit from their example on how to thrive in this next phase of life.

I don’t have to remember. They’re both there, in the mirror, to check on my progress.

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