I am Geep. That’s usually pronounced with a soft “G” so it sounds just like the car, but a couple of the grandkids prefer it with a hard “G” and that’s fine, too. Either way, it’s my grandfather name and it has come to define me in ways once hard to imagine but these days, it suits me quite comfortably. In fact, I’m quite pleased with the moniker: it gives me my own special niche in the generational lineup.
The only thing is, I have to make up my “Geepness” as I go along. As the late-in-life child of my parents who were themselves late-in-life children, I never knew either of my own grandfathers. I’ve seen a few black-and-white images of them, but I never heard the sound of their voices, or sat on their scratchy woolen laps, or felt their arms hug me. In one image, there is even the stern face of my own great-grandfather. He fought for the Union in the Civil War (what a textbook example of an oxymoron that is!) and who, in my imagination, must have seen with his own eyes the glory of the coming of the Lord while marching through The Wilderness. That compression of time boggles my mind, although in some ways, it seems to me, that same war is still being contested today, just on vastly different battlegrounds.
We tend to think of time in its linear form, but maybe it’s not quite as long a line as we believe. Just the other day, I sat with four generations of a branch of my in-law tree. Well, to be honest, the fourth generation wasn’t doing much of the sitting. They were running around with water guns and jumping on a Moon Bounce which had been set up in the backyard in celebration of a second-grade graduation, but that’s not the point. There I was, part of a rocking chair lineup with a great-grandfather, a grandfather, and a father, all branches of one tree that is now eighty-eight years old. Think about that; do that math. Granddaddy was born in 1933 when the Great Depression and the Dust Bowl were suffocating America. Herbert Hoover was out and Franklin D. Roosevelt was in, and now here I am, part of that living line, watching the next generation shoot it out with water pistols on a steamy June afternoon.
But I’m just Geep and that’s good enough for me. I can live with the fact that my grandkids already know more about computers than I ever will and are able to navigate a smart television that looks absolutely nothing like the black-and-white set with rabbit ears that was my babysitter back in The Wonderful World of Disney. Now Disney is not Walt; it’s a mega brand with more links in its chain than a sequence of the human genome, which, of course, begs the question, “What’s a genome?” You’ll have to ask one of the kids to explain that concept.
In the photograph that accompanies this Musing, that’s my father anchoring the right end of the front row. His father—my grandfather—is front row, second from the left. My great-grandfather, the Civil War veteran, sits center stage. My father looks to be about eight in this photo so I imagine it was taken about the time the First World War erupted in Europe. That might seem like a long time ago to you, but apparently it wasn’t because if you look closely at the image, you’ll see my own ghostly reflection.
I am Geep.
I’ll be right back.
Jamie Kirkpatrick is a writer and photographer who lives in Chestertown, MD. His work has appeared in the Washington Post, the Baltimore Sun, the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the Washington College Alumni Magazine, and American Cowboy Magazine. Two collections of his essays (“Musing Right Along” and “I’ll Be Right Back”) are available on Amazon. Jamie’s website is www.musingjamie.com.