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My Guardian Angel

Recently I prowled Spring Grove Cemetery in the hopes of finally finding my Great Grandmother's grave. A cousin had sprung for a marker in a low lying area where other single graves populated the lot. I posted to Facebook about seeing the stone for the first time. An entire story unfolded, much of which has to do with a biological ancestor we knew nothing about. Then there was the discovery of regions of Germany that our ancestors migrated from in the mid-1800s. But this is a story about my Grandpa.

Tucked away in the photo above is my Grandpa, Louisa's son, the baby of her family. Grandpa's third child, my mother, is named for Louisa. I carry that name as my middle name, and my granddaughter is Eloise as an iteration of the name. Grandpa, my mother. and me are all the third child. Me and Grandpa are the youngest.

I see the photo every morning when I put on my rings, check my appearance in the dresser mirror. It reminds me of him and a time when he watched out for me.. I spent much of my formative years in that dining room, either on a stool next to him while he occupied me so Grandma could nap or under the table, quietly absorbing the conversations above.

I smell cherry tobacco and I think of him. Hear the rustle of newspaper and find him close. See a neighbor hobble up the street and remember houndstooth suits and silk ties, a fedora to cover wispy, white hair.

He spent a life looking through a camera lens. His photographs are my most precious thing. They tell the story of our family. I am nothing of the pro he was, my camera skills lack the careful set up, but I sometimes achieve the story I want to tell.

Once the conversation began on social media, a new train of thought brought me even closer to him.

Cemetery records showed that my Great Grandmother Louisa died in West Virginia. With my cousin's help, an obituary in the local newspaper reported that she was visiting her son, the older child, Pedro when she contracted pneumonia in 1914,. More likely the Spanish Flu caused her death. Records show that Grandpa arranged for or retrieved her body for burial in Spring Gove a lot away from her first husband, Pedro., who had died in the late 1800s before my Grandpa became an adult.

The search prompted more questions than it answered. I went on the hunt for his other siblings, Ida who died in 1928 and Pedro (likely named for his father). who died in 1930. These records are the first glimpse of certainty about Grandpa's family. Until now, so much had been passed on to me by way of oral history.

These days, as I think about my own life, the last of my family of origin, I find such comfort in knowing that when I was young, my grandfather passed along an inner strength from his quiet, artistic countenance to help me cope with being the one to carry on the family name, the stories. of my parents, my two brothers.

I recall golden afternoon light streaming in the dining room window. He put his pipe on the stand, slipped a yellowed holy card out of his vest pocket. On the front, two children crossed a bridge, an angel close behind with a brilliant wingspan. He turned it over with his boney, lithe hands, to find the Guardian Angel prayer that he read to me, challenged me to learn it, and pray..

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