On the second day of the new year, my grandfather left this earth. Loved ones surrounded him for days and weeks, and when he departed, his children were by his side.
Sometime before he left, Grandpa Ron asked me to tell him about Colorado, writing the request on his dry erase board. He had undergone a tracheotomy during this most recent hospital stay, and used the board and marker to communicate. Upon my first visit to his hospital room, he wasted no time in asking for an update. Being an outdoorsman himself, and one who also appreciated western and southwestern topography in all of its glory, he didn’t surprise me in wanting to hear about Colorado before anything else.
I told him that I’m still baffled by the size and swaying sounds of massive pine trees, and how sometimes the tops of aspens look like distant neon green fireworks. I told him that I never knew so many different types of snow could exist, and that an arctic snowstorm came down the mountains and chased us the whole way back to Missouri, wreaking havoc for Denver International Airport and everything else in its path.
As I went on and on about anything I could think of, he placed his hands behind his head on the pillow, and his eyes eventually left hold of mine, drifting to some other focus. I knew that he could see the images as I described them, breathe in the rugged mountains for himself, and a pleasant expression washed over his face.
I wish I would have remembered to tell him how it’s never so quiet like it is during a midnight snowfall at 6,500 feet, but he would have already known that. After years of camping and hiking and skiing, I know he spent many a quiet night of his own in the sound absorbent snow.
I wish I would have told him how the morning after those snowy nights, the ground is covered in animal tracks of all shapes and sizes, dotted lines weaving through the trees like routes on a treasure map. But again, I’m sure he could recall many more mornings such as those than I.
As a young man, my grandfather spent time in many of the areas in Colorado that I’ve roamed this past year, and we’ve undoubtedly shared breathtaking mountain sunsets in the same locations, decades apart.
His true love, though, was for the southwestern sands of New Mexico. I have a new affinity for the Rocky Mountains, but he preferred the surrounding Sandias of Albuquerque.
I discovered a love for flying down the mountains on a pair of skis in Angel Fire, New Mexico, thanks to my Grandpa Ron. And without him, I may have never known how the Native women of Santa Fe roll out blankets with rows and rows of silver and turquoise on every block around the city square.
I always thought I had inherited my love for reading and writing from my Grandpa Ron, a thought validated by the presence of many of the same book titles existing on each of our own bookshelves, or by both of us landing our first writing gigs as sports reporters for the local newspapers of our college towns.
But perhaps it is also from him that I inherited a love for adventure… an unconscious drive to never truly settle into normalcy.
I know that it’s probably impossible to define “normal,” and that it’s a subjective and ever-changing term, but I’ll confidently claim that my Grandpa Ron didn’t exactly live a traditionally normal life. And I mean that in the most endearing way.
From spending his childhood and coming of age in Japan (maybe even experiencing first love and heartbreak there), to hitchhiking across the country as a young adult, to then experiencing entrepreneurial success in a multitude of projects — creating an original board game, owning and operating an advertising agency, becoming a talented photographer, and seeing the publication of his novels — my grandfather experienced a beautifully crafted and incredibly adventurous life, never once dipping into the monotony of professions or projects that he didn’t enjoy.
So, if my life parallels my grandfather’s in any way, I hope it’s in that way. A life spent traveling to beautiful places, taking beautiful photos, and writing beautiful stories sounds to me like an ideal way to live.
One of my favorite writers says that if you write something for which someone sends you a check, and if you cash the check and it doesn’t bounce, and if you then pay the light bill with the money, then you are talented. I agree. And that, to me, is success.
My grandfather was a talented artist and a businessman, and also a success.
He did what made him happy, and made that happiness his living. Grandpa Ron was always working on something, always creating, always active in his art. How wonderful a way to live that must be.
So, I am inspired more than ever to seize this life and embrace the adventure. The state of our current surroundings, both politically and socially, is reason enough to revolutionize our way of living. It starts at home, anyway, right?
My grandfather is both an inspiration and an example to me of what it means to transform passion into reality. That’s what this Life Rustic is all about, and I like to think that he was and is proud of his granddaughter’s journey.
He would ask me sometimes when I am going to write “The Next Great American novel,” and although that may not be the current reality, I hope he’d agree that living an adventure and writing a bit about it along the way is a good way to start. The trick will be getting it to pay for the light bill.
In loving memory of my grandfather, Ronald James Hutchison.
02.11.41 – 01.02.17