Niagara Gazette

Opinion

April 11, 2014

HAMILTON: The mirrors of my grandfather's fingernails

Niagara Gazette — What we do or don’t do will have a greater impact upon our grandchildren’s futures than what you might think. 

To positively change their futures, we must first know and understand how it is that we arrived at our own present, and then change it as necessary by using the positive, time-tested values of our own grandparents’ pasts. 

I could not have been more than about 5 years old when my dad drove the family to Wilkes-Barre, Pa., to visit my mother’s father. I remember sitting on grandfather’s lap, holding and examining his dark hands and asking him the kind of questions about them that any curious and secure tyke would ask. There were small, but deep vertical grooves that ran lengthwise through his then-manicured nails. They reminded me of the grooves on the vinyl music recordings of that day. I then compared my then-tiny and smooth fingernails to his.

It’s funny how small things can remind us of those who have gone before us. Just recently, I noticed those same grooves upon my own nails. As I stared at them, they seemingly transformed themselves into tiny and magical mirrors that foggily reflected back into the past; and I could see a 5-year-old little boy once again sitting upon his grandfather’s knee and looking at his hands.

Shakespeare wrote that the past is prologue. But sometimes it is a tad bit more than that. Human nature dictates that, as we go through life’s changes, we become those whom have gone before us.

Former Buffalo Mayor Grover Cleveland was president when my grandfather had left home and went off to work in the mines. According to my mother’s sister, grandfather was but three or so years older than I was when I would later sit upon his lap. He had carried with him a lunch pail in his hand, a bag of books over his shoulder and the dream of a better life in his head. His dreams did manifest themselves; as, near the age of 90, he died a self-taught, retired, coal mining superintendent. 

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