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~ William Edward Ash (That Intimacy) (For Dai, Joselito & Ray)

in november of 1993,

i was,

shall we say,

between marriages.

i also had lost my job

in june of that year,

so things weren’t going so good,

if you know what i’m saying.

 

now,

before you go thinking

that this has the making

of a sorry ass country western song,

don’t be feeling too bad for me.

i had a house.

coming out of the divorce,

i had managed to hang on

to a lot of my books.

and there was always steelhead fishing

on the deschutes river,

and those glorious days

in the fall

when i felt like

i had the whole canyon to myself,

but that’s another story.

 

anyway,

i decided that it would be a good time

to go visit my grandfather

who at this time was 91 years old.

my grandmother,

minnie,

had passed away a few years before.

for over 60 years,

my grandparents lived at

15 pendennis road

in tottenham,

which is in the north part of london.

my mother grew up in that house.

it survived the blitz

and you could still see

shards of shrapnel

embedded in the stone walls.

 

a few blocks from the house,

you can board the underground

at turnpike lane

~ on the piccadilly line ~

and you can go

all the way to heathrow

without changing trains.

 

my nephew tyler

was ten years old at the time.

i got to thinking about it

and figured that it might also be

a good time for him to see

his great-grandfather again.

so i asked tyler’s mother

if he could go.

she was powerfully skeptical

about the matter,

you know,

what with me being

the irreligious one in the family,

as well as me coming up as a failure

at even the most lenient test

for good family values.

 

tyler, of course,

was all for it,

seeings how

he’d be ditching school for two weeks.

finally,

his mother relented

and off we went.

 

my grandfather,

william edward ash,

was the kindest,

most gentle soul

i have ever known in this lifetime.

he was a gentleman

in every sense of the word.

he was a representative

for a glass company

and worked with builders and architects

all over london

on commercial projects

~ you know, like pubs and churches ~

that called for stained glass

and leaded windows.

i figure it was a pretty good business

since most of the windows in london

got blown out during the war.

 

when i was a kid in grade school,

we lived with my grandparents

at the house there

on pendennis road.

as with most london homes,

it lacked central heating.

i would get up early in the morning

and run to the bathroom.

and let me tell you one thing,

there is nothing colder on earth,

not even a polar ice cap,

than a toilet seat

in a london home

without central heating.

you put your arse

on a london toilet seat

and you spine turns to ice.

i’m not making this stuff up.

then i would run downstairs

to the parlor

where grandad

would have a coal fire going.

he would have my school uniform

draped over the back of a chair

in front of the fire,

all warm and ready for me.

he was not much of a cook.

he’d make me

a cold cheese sandwich

and i’d sit there

in front of the fire,

in my warm clothes,

eating my sandwich.

i’d listen to him

as he sipped his tea

and he’d tell me

about his work plans for the day.

it was just him and me.

 

anyway,

everyone that we ran across on that trip,

from flight attendants to waiters,

thought that tyler was my son.

the fact of the matter is

that i didn’t exactly deny it,

mostly because i was so proud

of my nephew.

he is very much like his great-grandfather,

the same sort of person

who always first considers

the needs of other people.

during that trip,

tyler and i went to see

all of the wonderful things

there are to see in london,

including a matinee performance of

“joseph and the technicolor dreamcoat.”

however,

when i asked tyler

what part of the trip he liked the best,

he told me that it was the time

spent in the evenings with grandad

~ sharing meals,

playing board games,

and telling stories.

and i realized the common bond

~ that intimacy ~

that connects people

over the generations.

 

bill ash died

the following spring.

the air was cold.

the streets and the sidewalks

surrounding the church

were wet from the rain.

and i remember

the cherry blossoms

flying in the wind.

 

***

 

this photograph was taken

on the london underground.

we were on way home

to the house on pendennis road,

just after granddad had met us at heathrow.

it was shot on ektachrome slide film

with a konica autoreflex t,

which i still have.

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Taken on March 4, 2007