My Unknown Grandfather This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

January 13, 2012
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We share many things: deep brown eyes, a big nose, a strong yet small build. But, mainly, we share an independence, a need for all things wild, natural and beautiful. We share a craving for the richness of life with its timeless traditions and bold new frontiers. We are one person of two separate times; one soul of two bodies; two minds of one heart. My grandfather and I bear such an uncanny similarity that it boggles my mind to think I never knew him, never once touched his face, held his hand or took a long, leisurely walk by his side.

My grandfather was a locomotive engineer in Pakistan in the 1950s. He used to drive steam engines throughout the unending desert that surrounded the nation of brown and brilliant people. I see him in my mind, at peace in the small confines of the engine room, stoking coal in the boiler, driving the train, his gaze forever bound to the thick brown sand that encompassed him. He was a person of brute strength, able to carry heavy shovels of coal; he was a person of mental strength, able to stand for hours, alone, in a small steel box, with endless desert flowing past his fingertips while firmly holding the steering bar.

He was a strong individual, my grandfather, never afraid to be alone. In addition to driving his train, Grandfather loved to take walks, miles long, by himself, into the unforgiving desert. With each footstep, the burning sand would glide gently over his thin sandals to tickle the soles of his feet, but little would he notice, for his skin was rough and calloused. Though my grandfather seemed a solitary man, he had a softer side, a tender, loving side, a side utterly bewildering to those who only saw the firm, stolid facade he proudly wore.

His one and only hobby was photography. It was the solitary pastime of a solitary man. Out into his desert he would go, camera in hand, ready to take the pictures that speak in a rhapsody of rhyme to the beholder’s eye, for he knew well that language would never say what his pictures could.

Grandfather was a unique man, and he took great pride in that. His clothes were most interesting; his pants seemed cut for a gorilla, and his shirts were large enough to hold his three sons. As for style, a rainbow of color seeped over every inch of fabric, leaving the world bathed in his brightness.

And somehow, without my knowledge, I am like him. Though I don’t drive a steam engine, his solitary manner seems to coincide perfectly with mine. I love to be alone, grabbing the opportunity whenever it presents itself. Though endless desert I am without, I walk for miles alone, with the buzz of traffic filling my ears. The desolate mindset Grandfather kept, I somehow borrowed from him.

But it’s style we share more than anything. Being unlike anyone else is both of our pride. His color and style seeped into my own gorilla-size pants, and his brightness has bathed my world. The rainbow of color is slowly gliding over me, stopping only long enough to grace me with his style.

My grandfather had so many nooks and crannies in his character; he was a puzzle of life, a man not meant to be understood but enjoyed like a gentle breeze caressing the senses. And, though I didn’t try at first, with each passing day I want more and more to be like the man who died ten years before my birth. The puzzle of life that he was, I wish somehow to be a part of, to be like the man whose life was enjoyed by all who knew him. Perhaps by encompassing part of his character, I can somehow meet the man I will never know and take a long, leisurely walk by his side.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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