I have always been fascinated by living with very few material possessions and nourished by memories of my maternal grandparents’ home in rural Pennsylvania.
Reaching the foot of my grandparents’ driveway was quite an adventure: steep hill upon steep hill for miles on dirt roads that opened to far fields and farms, creeks (or “criks” as we pronounced them), pine trees that stretched to an endless sky, and a few homes and hunters’ camps.
My grandparents lived on a small mountain overlooking a road that led to a town named Emporium. Their house was modest but felt like a castle to me. At one time it was home to them, their six children, and, during deer season, a lodge for hunters who literally helped feed the family. It was clean, sparse, and filled with books, a few images of the Holy Father and his Son, and magazines.
I could never hear enough about our vast German-American family, how my grandparents met at a dance and married when they were in their teens, how my grandmother had three of her children before she was 20 and later, after they had received college diplomas, she enrolled at a university when she was 50 and earned her bachelor’s and master’s degrees.
My grandmother and I both loved Lena Horne and Billie Jean King and my grandfather, a quiet man who never went to high school and probably preferred to speak German than English as he often did with his parents and many of his 15 siblings when he was young.
In a way, my grandparents are why I’m living in Hawaii, why I believe in seeing heaven right outside my door as I did this morning when I took this picture. They taught me how to dream, how to reach high like all those pine trees, how to be kind, generous, determined and resilient. They might have thought I’m a bit sentimental, although legend has it that my grandfather would secretly shed a tear after his many children or grandchildren left his home after a visit.
To this day my grandparents are still with me every mile I begin and finish in this heavenly mystery called life. I know they greeted me when I first stepped outside today and looked at the mountains and glorious sky.