The Best Writer I Never Knew (An Ode to My Grandfather)

Note: For Grandparents Day, I’m reposting this article in memory of my grandpa, Charles Ward.

Most people spend their lives dreaming of meeting someone famous — a big shot actress or world-class musician maybe. They long for a chance to connect with someone of real talent, a genius. But not me.

For years I had an amazing artist sitting right in front of me — and I didn’t even know it.

Photo of a Window
Photo credit: Lorenzo Cuppini (Creative Commons)

My Grandpa Ward was a jazz pianist, dedicated reporter, and oil painter. Among other things, he wrote plays and admired public radio, appreciated fine art and had a penchant for the classics. I have more in common with him than any other relative, living or dead.

But I never knew my grandfather like that — as the artist, I mean. For me, he was a nice man with a grumpy side who loved me and loved books. Only years after his death did I realize what a remarkable man he was. I regret not getting to know him better when I had the chance.

Fortunately, I have the privilege of preserving his memory in words — an apt epitaph, if I do so say myself. Here’s an excerpt of a piece I wrote about him, which was published in April 2012:

It’s early afternoon. Despite sun pouring through the windows, the room seems dimly lit. I know this room.

There’s a bathroom off to the side where I took my first shower—a rite of passage for a boy used to bubble baths. My mom stayed here after having my sister. While she was in the hospital, I read a letter from her every day that she was gone. All in this room.

It’s a place of beginnings, this room. But not today. Not this drab, dreary afternoon.

The priest recites words from a book that is not the Bible. They are practically inaudible. If I could hear them, I would not understand. Looking around, fidgety, I sigh. I am bored.

Books line the shelves: Dostoevsky, Hemingway, Stein; biographies, bibliographies, and literary analyses—it’s an appropriate place for a journalist, a caretaker of others’ stories, to die. 

Read the rest: When Grandpa Died

My grandfather was the best writer and artist I’ve ever known. I just wish I would’ve known that, and appreciated it, while he was alive.

I wish he could see me now, so that he could see his grandson, the published author. I wish he, the playwright, could’ve seen me performing in plays in college or performing live concerts with my band. I wish he could see my the walls of my house, lined with bookshelves. Just like his.

I think he’d be proud of me. Maybe he is.

Who is someone (a family member, friend, even famous person) you wish you would’ve gotten to know better? Share in the comments.

*Photo credit: Lorenzo Cuppini (Creative commons)