ElGardner’s Theater of Dreams Blog & Short Story Series
Cinematic Expressions of Unconsciousness©
A Theater of Dreams Memorial Edition
“Remembering Papa” || In Remembrance of my Grandfather
Although you left us many years ago, forget you we will not…
Although you left us 17 years ago, forget you we will not.
Around our entire planet, within every nation, we all live in different places, hold different beliefs, like different things and even think differently. This is an undeniable fact of life and is mostly contributed to our free will. With so many differences between us, it’s amazing that somehow we find each other and bonds of love are formed. A universal shared trait is our need for a sense of family.
At our beginning, we each had a mother and a father, giving us the essential ingredients that create human life. While not everyone has a nuclear family for their entire lives, those who do benefit greatly and those who don’t, replace it with another compatible support system that mimics family.
If we are the sum of our memories, then the family is a great majority of this simple equation. Each member of our family is a series of paint strokes in the painting that represents you and me.
My childhood was filled with family, not only do I have a mother, a father, and two sisters, but until I was an adult I had all four of my grandparents. In addition, I have numerous aunts, uncles, cousins, and now nephews. After my first son, Ethan was born and sometime before my second son, Landon, I lost my mother’s father, I lost my Papa. This was a very turbulent time for us, not only with the promise of new life and more on the way but to lose someone very special to you. To make matters worse, my wife lost her grandmother that same year. Both my wife and I were close to my grandfather and her grandmother.
They say that Time heals all wounds. This may be partly true, because over time we experience new things and gain new memories, letting the painful ones rest for a while. I like to think that after the sorrow and pain of losing a loved one fades, only the best of them remain, locked up tight in our memory, now a solidified better part of each of us moving forward. This is how I feel about my grandfather, who I called Papa.
Growing up my Papa was always there to support me, no matter which crazy idea I had, or what new thing I was into, he wanted to help make it happen. In the dead of winter, when my sister Cara and I were at my grandparents’ house, we wanted to go snow sledding. Papa made all the preparations, just so we could go down a long hill just above the Connecticut River in Springfield Vermont. He then stood at the top of the hill with his VHS camcorder system and recorded us sledding for a long time. It was freezing outside and he had the VHS tape deck hanging from a strap from his shoulder and the big camera connected and pointed at us being the fool kids that we were. (The earliest VHS camera systems had a large tube-based camera that was connected to a large VHS tape deck to record the footage – Yes two heavy pieces)
Papa recorded a lot! He was the first I knew to get a massive rotating satellite dish so he could get all his channels living in the middle of nowhere. He was also the first with the “portable” video recorder. He also recorded TV shows and used temporary labels so he could tape over them again. I used this same system with THREE VCRs after I got married, just so I wouldn’t miss any of my shows. Of course, once TiVo came along, everything changed. I digress.
In elementary school, when I got into basketball, I was fortunate to have my Papa there to encourage me and teach me the sport. When my Mom was young, my grandfather used to coach several sports, including basketball. When there wasn’t a basketball goal, Papa put one up at his house, just for me. Papa then spent hours coaching me in the fine art of shooting, dribbling, and shot selection. His coaching helped me become a better basketball player, those lessons were extremely valuable and continued to serve me well throughout my school years. More importantly, having these memories of our time together is priceless.
When I was in junior high, I spent a week at my Meme and Papa’s house. I haven’t mentioned my grandmother yet, who went by the French Canadian Meme because she was originally from Quebec and grew up in a French-speaking home. Meme was the absolute center of Papa’s universe. He loved, adored, and protected my amazing grandmother until the day he passed. His love of her is a shining beacon and example that I have tried to emulate in my marriage.
When I was very young, I wasn’t able to say the French Canadian word for grandfather, Pepe. When I was able to speak, I simply called him the closest thing I was able to say, which was Papa. From then on, he was Papa, to everyone.
Fast forward to the early 2000s, when my boys were very little. My Mom’s Mother, my Meme, sung my kids a song, as she did me when I was very young. This song included the lyric of “Tall trees, tall trees” Honestly I don’t have a clue about the song, its lyrics, and what it all means, but my grandmother, Meme, sang this song to my kids, as she did to all of her grandchildren. Before long, I had some fun with this and began calling my Meme by the nickname, “Talltrees.”
By some strange turn of events, my kids, my cousin Celeste’s kids, me, my wife, everyone started calling Meme “Talltrees” Of course this did help make her special among the growing list of women in my family, now grandmothers themselves, wanting to be called Meme. To this day, my Meme is called “Talltrees” by everyone in my family. What are two names I’ve coined for my grandparents, for those keeping score at home?
During the week at their house, he put me to work. Hard work. A full day’s physical labor work, that quite frankly I had not experienced before. For a couple of days, since I was young and smaller than he, Papa had me in their attic laying pink fiberglass insulation. Their house was long and wide, it was summer and the temperature must have been well over 100 degrees. He was with me the entire time, with his torso sticking up through the entrance from below. He would pass me row after row of that repulsive and itchy pink insulation and I would lay it down, row after row until the job was done and done well.
More than anything he taught me to work hard, work as fast as possible, and a job well done is the reward at the end of the day. This was a great lesson to learn and served me well throughout every afterschool and summer job I had, and I had many.
I remember we must have made ten or more trips to the hardware store that week. I knew from the look in his eyes, as he noticed a drill wasn’t sufficient, or his table saw was too old, that we were headed to the hardware store. We’d jump in his little brown Ford pickup truck and away we went. Papa loved his toys, as most men do I guess. Papa was an amateur chainsaw artist. If you need a door between two rooms, he would cut a rectangle hole and soon enough there was a door. That’s a real example, just one of many.
But this love of toys extended into the realm of electronics and technology. Papa always had to have the latest in video technology. In those days, big ugly television-only satellite dishes, Capacitance Electronic Disc Players, or CDP, VCRs and VHS Camcorders were cutting edge technology. My Papa and I shared a love of television and movies and just as much the technology behind the screen.
Since I was just an analog kid, I would cut out newspaper advertisements for the latest stereo and television technology, as advanced as the early 80s could provide. I taped these pictures of TVs and stereos onto the wall above my bed. These were my electronics and I used to pretend to press the buttons in the pictures, dreaming of a day when I had the real thing.
Around the same age, sometime before age 10, my parents had a cassette recorder, which I would borrow to record the opening jingles and theme songs of my favorite television shows. I would wait until the top of the hour and press record just as the last commercial or TV station identification ended. I created my mixtape with the songs from my favorite shows.
In junior high, after school, I scrubbed pans and mixing bowls for a local bakery. I saved every penny until I had enough money to buy my CD player. This was a very important, very monumental day for me. I could play my favorite music, mostly Rush, in the pristine quality of “digital” sound.
In high school, I saved all my money from my various jobs and built my component stereo system, one unit at a time. Finally, I had a Sony Receiver, Sony CD player, Sony dual cassette recorder/player, and two huge speakers to blast my Rush, Yes, Dream Theater, and Living Colour. Do you know what’s funny? Nothing has changed since I was a teenager. Sure I have MUCH better components and real speakers now and my music library is streamed over my 10 GB network to my Denon receiver from my Synology NAS. Nothing ever really changes much, not to the things that matter. I love listening to music and technology.
I got this love from my grandfather. Papa showed me the potential of using tech to make our lives better, to bring happiness to our families and friends. I took his love of recording family moments whenever possible and I have carried on this charge for over 20 years. Long before recording video and taking pictures on your iPhone XS Max or Samsung Galaxy S9+, and then sharing on social media seconds later. Long before technology was commonplace and everywhere. Before it became EASY and EVERYONE could use it, Papa was using technology to make us smile and to save our memories. Over 30 years ago he showed me the way. He showed me what could be done with the video, with audio, with technology, to make our lives better.
I got the bug, the TV bug, in my senior year of high school. Before that, I had no clue what I wanted to do with my life, or what I should major in at college. In the end, Papa’s inspiration, my obsession with technology, and my love of television lead me to my dream major of Media production and business management.
Following college, I enjoyed my dream career in the TV & Film production industry, where I became a certified Avid editing expert and traveled throughout the US and Canada teaching, public speaking, and being an evangelist for the technology that empowers media creation.
In high school, when I needed a cheap car to drive to band practice, school, and whatever job I had at the time. Solution? Papa sold me his rusty-old-brown Ford pickup truck for one dollar. A better price could not be found, although a better truck could be found almost anywhere. But that little brown truck transported me and my friends and drum sets between a million different point As to point Bs throughout Cape Cod. One day, after our high school rock band practice in my friend Boyd’s basement, I was sitting on the edge of my truck bed. I was moving my legs and lightly tapping the heels of my Converse Chucks on the side of the bed. After two light taps, my shoe knocked a hole right through the rust. Boyd, Matt, and I laughed for days after that one.
Papa was always quick to laugh at a good joke, or something truly funny. In high school, I learned the power of laughter and of making others laugh. It was a needed defense against the stress and occasional darkness that comes with being a teenager. From those years forward, most of the time I made a joke around Papa, he would laugh so hard that he would cough and tears would well up in his eyes. I worried about him a few times, hoping that my comedy wouldn’t put him in the hospital. But it never did and to this day I can hear his laugh ringing pure and loud in my mind. This is one of the most precious and fantastic memories I have of Papa.
Having a dream about him 17 years after he passed away took me off guard. Needless to say, I wasn’t expecting it. But I’m glad I had this dream and even happier to have remembered it long enough to type the following notes at 5 AM earlier this year.
Dream Journal Entry: 183 of 201
Date of Dream: 06.19.18
Dream VII – “Papa”
A Theater of Dreams Memorial Edition
In this dream, Papa is alive and well.
The dream took place recently and I was about my current age.
I spent a couple of weeks with him at his remote cabin on a hillside in the woods.
The cabin was suspended over the hill with support beams buried deep in the soil. Stairs brought you up into the small comfy space. At the end of our week together, my grandmother joined us and the three of us sat for a bit and enjoyed each other’s company.
There was a sense of finality, I felt like this was temporary, as if our time together would soon be impossible. He would soon leave his cabin to me as my inheritance. He felt I deserved it, that I had earned ownership of the cabin. Throughout my whole life, I had learned enough from him for him to move on and leave everything in my capable hands.
As I was gathering my belongings and packing my bag, my grandmother, Meme, was lighting candles and placing them in each of the cabin windows. Together they were finishing preparing dinner over the woodstove. Candlelight bathed the cabin in a warm yellow glow. The scene was calming and peaceful and both of my grandparents were very happy. They each gave me a huge hug before I departed and my Papa told me that he was proud of the man I had become. I wished more than anything that he could come with me to see my four children and my wife once again. But the moment wasn’t right and he was unable to leave the cabin.
As I walked away from Papa and Meme, I remembered all of the hard work we did together during my stay with him, memories that were now part of me. Memories that like every moment of our lives, form us and molds us into the people we are today. Our time together built another room in my memory palace. This would be a special room, one where the best memories of my Papa would forever be part of who I am and someday part of who I have yet to become.
When I reached the bottom of the hill, I was surprised to see that beyond the treeline before I was in my backyard. A few more steps and I would be home again. All that time I was close to home and didn’t know it. I do not refer to the house of red brick that I live in, but instead, I was close to my own family, my wife, and my kids. The people I love, and who love me for who I am, no matter what, are my home. My family is my home and sooner than I imagined I would once again be in their loving orbit.
Before passing through the trees into my yard, I looked back at the cabin on the hill. It was still there, standing proudly on the hillside. However, in that final moment looking back, the cabin’s windows were dark, without the warm glow of candlelight. No smoke came from the chimney, and it was clear that no one was inside. At that moment I realized that the cabin would remain dark and empty and my Papa would never visit it again. I was not sad and I did not grieve this revelation, because the best parts of Papa, his essence and his memory, forever part of me, would glow within my memory.
Woke up at 5:20 AM, cold, need to use the little boys’ room.
We love you, Papa. One day, in a much better place, we’ll see you again.
Until then, Thank you, for everything.
We love you, Papa. One day, in a much better place, we’ll see you again.
Until then, Thank you, for everything.
NOTE from ElGardner: Every Dream in the Theater of Dreams© – A Dreamer’s Journal contains the original notes, typed moments after waking from each dream. Every dream in The Theater of Dreams is original, contains zero embellishments, and is only based on what could be remembered upon awakening. All Dreams, stories, and concepts are solely owned by Eric L Gardner (ElGardner) Copyright © 2021 ALL RIGHTS RESERVED