This photograph of my grandfather Gib Eli from the collection of Father Thomas Connolly, SJ. This digital copy came to me through the research efforts of my newfound cousin Chad Hamill. Something about the photograph stirs a feeling of sadness and recognition in me.
Meeting Chad re-opened many old questions about my personal and family history. Why didn't I get to know my grandfather when he was alive? How would things be different if I had known the living man instead of a handful of old photographs and second-hand stories? I'm grateful for the pictures I do receive, but sometimes I wish he were here to give me direction and advice.
But then maybe my wish comes true in more ways than I know. As a child, I was once startled awake by the sight of a tall man kneeling by my bedside. He wore a hat just like the one in this photograph. He looked up once and then vanished into my dreams. Another time, I listened to stories from a person who knew him well, and he seemed so familiar. Even the stories of his humor reminded me of myself.
Perhaps he is more present than I realize.
By the way, the title of this blog is modified from the original Salish. The word for a paternal grandfather is "sxepe," but a young person or child would say "hapa" or "heppa." A different word applies for a maternal grandfather: "sile."