Thursday, June 21, 2012

The tree

I don't actually remember my grandfather, I just know that we spent time together. I've heard descriptions of our interactions, which are the closest things I have to memories of him. Case in point: the tree. Apparently, my grandfather could grow anything. Even in Colorado, even under the haphazard care and erratic watering that is the Kwinn Homestead. When I was three years old, he brought a mountain ash tree from Tennessee and we planted it in the front yard. He and my parents let me choose where to plant the tree, which ended up being too close to the blue spruce that was planted by the original owner and/or landscape architect.

This was my tree.

I always thought of it as my tree. When I was five, I thought it would grow quickly enough that I would soon climb it like kids in the movies would climb trees. As it turns out, trees don't grow that well in Colorado and it never really took off in that way. Also, it was crowded by the blue spruce. They snuggled well on cold nights and meant that there was almost no grass that needed trimming in the front yard.

My grandfather died four years after we planted that tree, so it isn't a big surprise that it didn't grow straight and tall. It divided into four mini-trunks too close to the ground.

When I turned sixteen I parked my car underneath that tree. Sometimes it would protect it from snow, but more often it would drop orange berries and tiny leaves in the fall. It was ok, though, because it was my tree.

It got nuts after college and started to really take over the driveway, so much that it was a little difficult trying to squeeze in underneath it when parking. It would get caught in my hair when I would roll in late at night and couldn't avoid all of the branches.

Then this past fall a big storm came through town and split my tree in half. A neighbor came over with a chain saw to cut it away from the driveway so my parents could drive out. They hired a landscaper to evaluate the remaining parts of the tree, and he said what we knew all along: it was planted too close to the blue spruce.

And it wasn't going to make it.

I think I cried more when I heard about my tree than I did about my grandfather, but to be fair I was only seven when he died and had no experience grieving. Now at 31, I have lots more experience with loss (and am an excellent crier).

But as sad as I am, no one mourns that little tree more than the blue spruce. It grew around the ash and now has it's own scar: a hole where the ash used to be.

I think we have a lot in common.

So now there's a big chunk of my tree sitting behind my couch. I begged my parents to save some of it for me so I could make something out of it, like a photo frame or coasters or whatever else people make out of pieces of ash. Something new.

I don't remember my grandfather, but I remember my tree. It was something we grew together; a description of one interaction. Our story.

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