Art with Cause

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Thursday, March 20, 2014


He worked hard with his hands and did what he thought was right for his family. He didn’t set out to change a town – but he did. And I am proud to be able to call him Grandpa. And he used to call me a princess, sarcastically of course. 

He started a couple children’s football teams, he said, just so his boys had something to do. Then the girls needed majorettes, to do something too. Later in life he told me it kept him away from the family too much. He was never sure that it should have turned into something as big as it did. He just wanted the boys to have something to do. But he LOVED the game, loved coaching, loved watching it, and loved handing us grandchildren the old pig’s skin.

I moved back to Amsterdam as an adult. I go to dinner parties and as soon as I say my last name someone always asks: as in Whitey Murray?! Then I listen to grown men talk about football, and tackles, and how Whitey did this and whitey did that! Once a man just tackled another man! The conversation brought them all to their youth, invigorating them and filling them with joy. Yup, that is My Grandpa – everyone smiles so warmly just by bringing up his name.

But he just wanted to start something to keep his sons busy.

Then someone would mention his gas station and the stories would start again. Everything from needing gas on a Christmas Eve and Whitey saving the day – to – memories of picking up their new football jerseys for the new Little Giants season.

Its not just dinner parties though, I say my last name anywhere and then hear the Whitey stories. I often hear about him being Santa every year for Saint Mary’s Hospital. He was even Santa one year for my day-care when my son was small. And I hear about him being the cable guy – and a cool one at that: My grandparents had MTV playing the day it first aired!

Whitey? You mean the guy with the garden? Yes, I hear that often too! He grew a garden that was so news worthy, that it was in the local paper more times than any other garden in Amsterdam. And I hear all about his sunflowers as if I hadn’t lived it, played in it (with permission of course), and helped plant it on occasion. And play hide and seek in the gardens on the back hill with the cousins – in the green houses and chestnut tree - just to find my favorite hiding spot in the garage next to him watching the game, sitting on a lawn chair, while my uncle and his friends played basket ball in the driveway. (Well, I might have blurred together a bunch of memories in that one!)

One day walking into work, someone stopped me and asked if I was one of his children. No, I am one of his grandchildren. Then I was told how much I look like a Murray – he could just tell.

And MY Whitey story: He’d sit in the den for hours with postage stamps all over his desk and volumes of books about them. And the football game was always on. He’d explain it to me – but I never listened. I still don’t understand the sport. But I did like to listen to him explain it, over and over. While eating cookies I stole from the kitchen – he’d tell me I’d spoil my dinner. And he was right.

But my favorite Whitey story isn’t a story at all – yet it always told such a wonderful story (and it is the thing I will miss most): His eyes. Once you stopped looking at the eyebrows that were longer than the hair on his head – his eyes. They would sparkle in such indescribably loving ways when he played with us grandchildren. When he first met my son – his first great-grandchild, who shared his name: Robert Murray - was the first time I saw that sparkle from an adult perspective and recognized it was love and family pride that was overwhelming in his eyes. And I saw that same sparkle in his eyes, full of just as much love and pride (if not more), each time he had another great grandchild! Yes. I will miss his eyes.

I love you, Grandpa.

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