I feel his presence at times, speaking to me down through the years, influencing my life through a variety of means. He speaks to me. Not in words. This language knows no words. It’s a lot deeper than that. Indescribable, but unmistakable. Hello, Martin.
Dad told his stories on many a long trip, good Grandson that he was, stories about his chosen father figure, his maternal Grandfather. As we’d be driving along the Pennsylvania Turnpike, past the Horseshoe Curve, climbing mountains, going through the twin tunnels, Dad would tell of the time that Martin walked across the entire state of Pennsylvania, nearly 400 miles from Pittsburgh to Philadelphia, and back, to collect a $20.00 debt owed him by a former associate.
He’d grown accustomed to such marathon walks, as he’d marched all over the states of Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania as a young teen, chasing or being chased by Rebel forces, engaged in many of the great battles of the War Between the States – Seven Pines, Fredericksburg, Antietam, Fredericksburg II, the Wilderness Campaign.
I’ve spent many long hours poring over his diaries from those hard, lonely years marching, fighting, camping, longing for home. Recalling some of my own early journal-writing, when I was in my mid-teens, before I found poetry, before all the drama exploded in my life, when I’ve read his Civil War scribbled entries, I’ve seen some of myself in him. He has spoken to me through these written words, written 150 years ago, resonating today.
I feel him very strongly, overwhelmed by a very deep and real sense of grief, as we now drive past Seven Pines, where the 14 year old boy saw his step-father and hero, Joseph Gerard, just cut down in the prime of his life, right before his eyes, in the horror and confusion of the terrible battle. I could never fathom what that must have felt like for young Martin when I was trying to write his life story, but on these last two trips through this scene of his great grief, those 150 years ago, I feel it very powerfully. It washes over and through me. I feel as though he reaches out to me through the years, through time, wanting me to feel it, to understand it. And I do feel it – I feel him – in my blood – in my heart. Oh, Martin. How did you possibly go on? How could anyone?
His strength in the face of adversity comes down to me, in my blood, in my heart. I do believe that these things get handed down. When I look back on some of the difficult times that I have survived, I wander where that strength came from, whatever it was that caused me to keep on, through the despair, through the doubt, the abuse. As I think of Martin, and feel him in my blood, I no longer wander at that.
A “reader” once told me that I had a guardian spirit who had always been with me, my whole life, that it was an older gentleman who kept close by and looked out for me. At the time, I thought it must be my father’s father, who passed over to the other side less than 3 weeks before I made my debut on this earth.
James, Senior. I’ve always felt an affinity for James, the Grandpa I never met, as he and I seem to have had similar personalities. Loved baseball and music. Gregarious. A practical joker. Made friends easily. Maybe it was him, and now Martin is hanging around. Could be.
Who knows how these things work? I certainly don’t. I find it interesting though, fascinating, and am very open to the possibility that there’s something there. I don’t try to understand how it all works – just try to be open to whatever they might be wanting to convey to me, and to carry on their legacy, in my own, unique way.
While carving out my own legacy to add to the chain. Just another link in the line.