My grandfather and I had a special relationship. I was the oldest in a single parent family, and for a while, we lived with my grandparents. My grandfather and I were readers, and I know that a big part of who I am today can be traced back to his influence. Not only did he love history and reading, he also loved nature. I never did get all that interested in fishing or hunting (okay, not AT ALL interested), but I still love canoeing down the Assabet and Concord river, I still get excited when I see a Great Blue Heron and I think Quabbin Reservoir is one of the prettiest places around.
My grandfather died three years ago this summer. Which surprises me, because it still feels like it happened very recently. I haven’t gotten used to him being gone. I feel like he’s just off traveling somewhere, and I’ll see him again soon. Which is why, when I’m faced with proof that he’s gone, it feels like it just happened, and hurts all over again. I know at some point, I’ll have to adjust, I’ll get used to a world that he’s not in, but I’m not there yet.
This weekend, I found myself in the western part of the state. I grew up about forty five minutes east of Worcester, in Maynard. And before meeting Marc, I don’t think I had ever gone to Worcester, let alone traveled often out to the western part of the state. But we had a family party out there, at Look Park in Northampton, and so off to the western wilds I headed. We spent the day with family (looking at family pictures from twenty years ago, hence the tears and grief over missing my grandfather) and finally headed back home at the end of a long day.
We took Rte.9 the whole way, and I saw the signs for Quabbin on the way out there. I haven’t thought of it in years, and didn’t honestly know where it was, let alone if it was still open for people to go wander around. I pulled in, just to see, and recognized it.
It was bittersweet for me. I had my husband and three children with me, and that was wonderful. We pulled over at a few of the scenic viewing areas, and let the kids run around. We stood on picnic tables and read the plaques explaining the history behind what we were seeing. But I kept thinking back to twenty years ago, when I was my oldest daughter’s age, and my grandfather would take me up to Quabbin. I miss him still. I see him in my daughter’s love of non-fiction, in Sam’s affinity for nature and in my baby’s smile. I see him in my mother, with her ever present bird book so she can accurately name the new visitors to his birdfeeder – and I see him when I think of my husband, with his broad knowledge base, his desire to learn, and his love of family. I learned early on about what makes a great man and father, and know that I’ve found a man who will inspire his grandchildren eventually the way my grandfather did with me.
They live on, in us. It doesn’t make missing them any better. It doesn’t make it any less painful or any easier to accept. But this weekend, I got to show my kids a little bit of what I love most about this area, and rediscovered a place I had forgotten. If you haven’t been to Quabbin Reservoir in a while, it’s definitely worth the trip. Beautiful picnic areas, gorgeous scenery and if you’re lucky, maybe it’ll remind you of someone who made the extra effort, when you were a child, to feel loved and cherished and appreciated. I know it did for me.