My Grandpa Bill

When I was in Los Angeles I visited with my grandfather for the very first time.

He lives in the earth now, but I like to think he felt me talking to him. He died in my 18th year - the same year I met his son, my father, for the first time.

It was this lack of connection to my paternal line that fueled my genealogical frenzy. I just woke up one morning sick and tired of the hole inside ... and I took action to fill the hole with facts.

Because of my tenacious digging and eventual providential connections, I am proud to tell you a little bit about my Grandpa Bill: he hopped on a freight train at 13 and rode the hobo rails, leaving behind West Virginia and the Great Depression for his visions of life in Los Angeles.

He eventually found his feet as a singer and guitarist in a cowboy band called Sons of the Golden West.

He would be injured in the Pacific and WW2, experiencing hand to hand combat with the Japanese that would stay with him for life.

He was a renegade eccentric, an actively sensitive introvert, and he would spend his haunted days reading Edgar Cayce and 'blowing shit up' in his mad scientist den in the garage, according to a family member.

So what is it about this man that touches me so deeply that I drove 4 hours round trip to visit his bones one Friday afternoon?

I am sure that he was so much more than these descriptions, and the need to know the details haunts me even now.

But I'll never forget learning about his life and the long line of eccentric souls he came from, because for once I felt a belonging. I belonged to a man who never really belonged anywhere, just like me.

I felt a pride in my own eccentric introvert, because it was an inheritance from a man whose DNA rustles through me restlessly.

Every little trait that I'd been taught was freakish and unacceptable were suddenly my strengths: my restless soul. My risk-taking free-faller.

My mad scientist of thought and expression. My creative, esoteric, inquisitive spirit. And my inner warrior.


My Grandpa Bill gave me the gift of belonging. Of landing. Of arriving.

Long after his own life ended, and without ever once looking me in the eye, he gave me a home within myself.