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.