Thursday, August 30, 2012
My Grandfather Died
He was a very interesting person back in his salad days. An archaeologist, a scholar, and a greatly beloved teacher, he was very professionally successful and quite influential, particularly in improving relations between archaeologists and native groups (the relationship between archaeology/anthropology and Native Americans/Indians is historically mostly an exploitative one, and my grandfather was one of the first to envision a different path).
He was a well-known folk musician (he has a CD of his work put out by the Smithsonian), and lived a rather Bohemian lifestyle, being good friends with people like Janis Joplin's road manager and many other local artists, musicians and creatives. (My grandparents used to have a large purple cube in their living room for smoking pot with their friends, and one of my grandfather's most favorite activities was all-nude parties in their massive hot tub--it held about 30 people.) He also quilted (having learned when confined to bed for a year in childhood due to a bout with TB), sewing beautiful curtains, quilts, pillows and the like, and decorated all the ceilings in their house with elaborate designs done in different tints of gold leaf.
Generally speaking, he was a very unusual person, with very little interest in conformity. He wore only one outfit: jeans (had to be Levi's), cowboy boots, cowboy hat, dress shirt (with pearl or shell buttons), and a jean jacket. He loved order and meticulously organized everything, from his firewood (see the picture above) to the sausages served at Christmas (he created a guide for them every year). He was probably the most principled person I have ever known: once he believed something, that is what he would do, and he never deviated. For instance, he didn't believe in telling others what to do, and so even though he was a professor, he never encouraged (or discouraged) his daughters to pursue higher education. He never lied, cheated, exaggerated, or even speculated: what he said was always the exact truth, as far as he knew (and if he wasn't sure, he would tell you that as well). I can't remember a time when he spoke badly of someone: he always gave others the benefit of the doubt and refused to pass judgments (he didn't believe in that either).
He didn't care much about many things which concern others. He disliked travel of any kind, even weekend trips; didn't care about food (he ate the same thing every single day: beans from the can, white bread and hot dogs), fashion, or anything new (their house was entirely furnished with hand-me-down furniture from friends). He had no prejudices: all colors, genders, sexual orientations and backgrounds were the same to him.
I'm not sad that he died, but I am sad he's gone, because he was someone who enriched the world with his presence.