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To My Grandson
I became a grandfather a few weeks ago. Richard Conlin Steiner was born on September 25th and he will become part of the fourth generation of our family to have memories of these our mountains.
As usual, we had the obligatory pictures taken, including grandfather and grandson. The event prompted me to once again think about my own grandfather, who went through the same process. As usual in such cases, the first grandson is memorialized with a number of photographs and the second is nowhere to be found. So it is that the grandchild seen in pictures with Edward is Henry-York, my older brother.
Edward was 66 years old when his first grandchild was born, and being from 19th century Europe, a male heir made him very happy. Edward had two sons, one of whom died in his teens, so a grandson named for the lost son was, at least for the moment, proof the family name would survive.
Edward died in 1956, and so I never had the chance to find out how he felt about being a grandfather. Richard Conlin will know how I felt.
What I feel is a certain ambivalence; it’s nice to know that another generation will come to know this place, so there is a sense of continuity. On the other hand, it’s a reminder that my time here is limited. The pictures of me and my grandson will fade, as Edward’s have, and family incidents will become folklore.
Edward wrote 22 books, some of them in his little cabin called The Study, but most of them reveal little about his own life, and nothing at all about his relationship with the Tahosa Valley property. Richard will know more about how his grandfather felt about this place. I hope he will come to love it as I have.
In many ways it’s a different place than it was in 1932, when my brother was born; the pictures show a place with few homes and many fewer trees. It was more wild, and more isolated. Still, Edward managed to share those aspects, along with the peace and communion with nature with numberless friends and his family. That tradition continues. The passing years have seen new generations of friends and family, and they have seen the wildness replaced by the trappings of domesticity and the wildness diminished by the inexorable advances of American technology.
But the mountains abide, and will appear to Richard’s eyes as they did to Edward’s and mine. I hope that sight will inspire in him as much faith in the future as it inspired in my grandfather and me.
© 1985 – 2003, David E. Steiner
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