Last night I dreamed the world was on fire, and my grandfather was standing in the flames. I woke up sobbing.

Papaw was a walking contradiction, impossible to understand. He’d made his fortune in oil. His entire life was a series of battles with politicians, governments, foreign powers – whatever it took to continue the sovereignty of fossil fuels. Before the Green Revolution, his name had been a household word, spoken with admiration and envy. Now that the grass roots movement has taken over the climate conversation, and humanity finally seems to have a fighting chance, his name is spoken with disgust.

He was a threat to mankind, I don’t deny that. And yet, I remember him comforting my grandmother. “I’m so sorry, Delia. I wasn’t thinking.” He had charged like a bull through her garden, in his eagerness to welcome her home. He tenderly picked up the crushed flowers, tears in his eyes. “Your beautiful primroses. I’ll help you plant new ones. And I’ll build a rock wall around them to protect them from careless giants like me.” He really loved those flowers, and he adored Meemaw.

When I sold my huge house and extensive holdings, and gave most of my money to the Green Revolution, he beamed. “A perfect new home, just big enough for you and your future wife.” He grinned. “And surrounded by a treasure of trees and blossoms!” I had purchased our former gardener’s cottage and extensive flower beds. Meemaw loved to come visit and exchange plants. Papaw heartily approved. When I traded in my fancy cars for two bicycles and a tiny electric Smart Car, he was like a kid at Christmas. “Let me try a spin,” he would beg, eyeing my e-bike.

In my dream, Papaw was saying good-bye, standing in the devastating flames he had helped create. I was sobbing. He was a courageous warrior; he had just been fighting on the wrong side.

The world is celebrating his death today – the end of a dark era. But in spite of everything, I’m grieving. He was my Papaw, and I loved him.

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    Paul Lewthwaite
    Paul Lewthwaite(@paul-lewthwaite)
    2 years ago

    Hi Juma, I think you captured Papaw’s underlying humanity perfectly and it highlights the contradictions that make us individuals. He does seem to have had his ‘Road to Damascus’ moment, but perhaps too late.

    Linda Rock
    Linda Rock(@linda-rock)
    2 years ago

    I’ve always believed each of us has two sides Juma and your story illustrated this so well. And how could my heart not go out to your protagonist who loved his Papaw so much while having to witness the world celebrating his death? A thought-provoking story and, as always, really well written.

    Reply to  Juma
    2 years ago

    When we can still write about love in a world turned upside down, there is hope. Thank you, Juma, for showing us real multi-dimensional people.

    Lotchie Carmelo
    Lotchie Carmelo(@lotchie-carmelo)
    2 years ago

    I gasped. You presented it well, Juma. And I can really feel every emotion in your story especially the unconditional love for his Papaw, even if he has done wrong. Well done.

    Dipayan Chakrabarti
    Dipayan Chakrabarti(@dipayan-chakrabarti)
    2 years ago

    ‘Papaw’ is a moving and bittersweet story, filled with hopeful expectations. Good work!

    Christer Norrlof
    Christer Norrlof(@christer-norrlof)
    2 years ago

    I have just started reading Dante’s Divine Comedy, Juma, and when I read about your protagonist’s dream, where his grandfather is standing in flames, my mind went to Dante. When Virgil introduces him to the first circle of hell, Dante is surprised to see good people there, who lived decent lives. Only because they weren’t Christians, they weren’t allowed to enter Paradise. There is some kind of parallel, I think, to the… Read more »

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