On Thursday I will not be going to Igor’s. This Thursday I am beginning an adventure. Me, He-weasel, Lily and my mother are going on a trip to find my grandfather. We are packing the car and driving from L.A. to Portland, Oregon. It will be a kind of family reunion, only there will be no one waiting for us—no party at a park to celebrate our surname. You see my grandfather isn’t actually in Portland; he is buried somewhere in Orlando, Florida. I suppose we could have made a trip to Orlando and gone to Disney World and stopped by the cemetery in which he resides, but I prefer to see the buildings he built. As soon as I learned about my grandfather’s buildings I knew I had to see them for myself. There was an impulse that demanded fulfillment. When I told my mother that I was going to see my grandfather’s buildings she told me that she wanted to come too.
“They thought that it would be a disgrace to go forth as a group. Each entered the forest at a point that he himself had chosen, where it was darkest and there was no path. If there is a path it is someone else’s path and you are not on the adventure.”
— Joseph Campbell
When we arrive in Portland on Friday we are going to go to the county records office and stand in line and fill out forms and pay a clerk to give us a listing of all the buildings that my architect grandfather built in Portland. And then we are going to spend the next week going to these places. We will get out of the car and help my mother get out of the car and get Lily’s leash on and make sure we have batteries in the camera and we will stand in front of his buildings. We will bring no flowers to these monuments of his memory instead we will bring a Rashomon of reactions.
He-weasel will take pictures and talk about the architectural elements of the edifice. My mother will tell stories about her father and she will feel things about him and his abrupt departure from her life. She will feel pride at seeing these things that her father accomplished and she will feel grief that this man who built these buildings that endure was incapable of creating any relationship that did. Lily will pee on the grass in front of my grandfather’s buildings. She will excitedly smell the smells she has never smelt before and she will greet any passer byes as if this was her home. I will stand in front of what remains of this man, as if standing at his grave-site. I will quietly reflect on this man that I never knew whose choices have impacted my mother’s life and hence, indirectly, my life. I will see if I feel anything. I will listen for any messages that the ghost of my grandfather has for me. I will look to these buildings hoping that they can serve as a mirror, giving me some kind of greater understanding of myself and perhaps some greater insight into my mother.
When we get back in the car my mother will sit quietly and I will know that even though she won’t say it that she feels something like depression in response to these paternal structures and she will imagine the life she would have had if her father hadn’t left her. Other days she will fill the emptiness with a manic spree of recollection. She will tell me stories about where she went to school and how she remembers walking down this street with her brother and how much Portland has changed since she was a child. He-weasel will ask me excitedly which address we are going to next and then he will turn his attentions to navigation. Lily will use the time to nap in her crate or work on her plans for destruction for her chew toy. I will open the new journal I bought just for the trip—the journal that will house the thoughts, feelings and the names of places we stop for coffee along the way. I will document my reactions to this place that we just saw and I will write down all the things my mother said while we stood in front of this building that her father built. I will write all that I notice. I will watch my mother mourn her father and I will think about what Jung said,”Nothing has a stronger influence psychologically on their environment and especially on their children than the unlived life of the parent.” I will watch my dreams to see how my psyche is responding to this meeting with my grandfather’s ghost. And I will keep a list of things that I want to tell you and another list of things that I want to tell Igor.
There is something about this trip that has a tone of great gravitas and finality to it. And I get the sense that this is the last trip I will ever take with my mother. Maybe that is why I feel that death is coming with us on this trip—or maybe that is just the ghost of my grandfather who will come along for the ride. For my mother and for me, taking this trip is some kind of nameless ritual—it is a ritual of a homecoming, only this isn’t my home and all of the homes we visit will be closed to us. Likely during our visits to all of his buildings will be us on the outside looking in with no access or entry to the interiors of these buildings and even if we could enter the man we are seeking would not be there, his ghost eclipsed by the lives of the occupants who call these houses, that he constructed, home. However, I do believe that by showing up at his doors…something will be opened, I just don’t know what that will be.
“We have only to follow the thread of the hero path.
And where we had thought to find an abomination,
we shall find a God.
And where we had thought to slay another,
we shall slay ourselves.
And where we had thought to travel outward,
we shall come to the center of our own existence.
And where we had thought to be alone,
we shall be with all the world.”
— Joseph Campbell
All pictures posted here are of some of the photos I found online of my grandfather’s buildings. I can’t help but notice that he has a sort of Jungian aesthetic (yes, I am aware that I could be projecting).
p.s. Please check out this LOVELY, LOVELY, LOVELY post!