Saturday, November 3, 2012

My Grandpa

I only have one Grandpa. No disrespect to my Grandpa Ron, but I've only met you 4 or 5 times, and only remember meeting you twice. Actually, a little disrespect, because you could at least of sent us a card or something. Anyway. My Grandpa Browning was an important part of my life from as early as I can remember. No place in the world is as saturated with memory for me as my grandparents' home. All the kids gathering together in the front room to watch the Disney Channel (back when you had to subscribe to it) on the TV next to the organ or, when we were older, in the basement to watch Snick, under the soft light of the fluorescent bulb tucked under the overhanging bookshelf. Family picnics in the backyard, with blankets spread out everywhere and volleyball and croquet afterwards. The stairs starting from the floor of the outdoor garage that lead nowhere but to the underside of the deck, but seem to lead to a land of mystery and wonder. It's amazing to me that almost everyone in the world has gone their whole lives without reaching down into the bottom corner of the front room closet door to get at the toys inside, or stood by my grandfather as he put more wood into the small fireplace that heated their self-built home for so many years. For me, having slept over at my grandparents home is an essential part of being human. That my grandparents built that home on their own, with no architect and no adherence to popular style infused the entire house with personality and identity. The bedroom doors slide into the walls!

Almost every photo credit in this post goes to my sister Charity

This, for me, is the greatest legacy of my grandfather. He was not a man of many words. I had no deep conversations with him and can't remember any advice that he gave me. But I will always be grateful that through the deepness of the good that defined his life, his home, created in true partnership with his wife, was the safest, most comforting environment that I have experienced anywhere on earth.

My Grandpa and My Dad playing checkers on the board that my Grandpa built in the house that he built

My childhood suffered some serious blows this year when most of the yard around my grandparents house, but not their house, was burned in a large forest fire. That fire took the trees we used to climb and that crazy, mysterious old clubhouse tucked up a few yards into the tree line.

My grandparents house in the one on the left side of the main road at the far right of this picture or to the left of the main road in the center, not sure which. Either way, it was close.

And then, yesterday, came the much more thorough blow of losing my only Grandpa. Lost from the world is one of the rarest breed of all, the man who can go his whole life without saying anything negative about anyone. My grandfather epitomized the quiet grace that I see to be as close to the ideal of humanity as it is possible to be. His partnership with my beloved Grandma was a true partnership based on love and appreciation for the foundational joys of life. His ways were simple and his means simpler still, but in days filled with quiet conversations with family, simple and wholesome food and Lawrence Welk and Little House on the Prairie, highlighted by constant trips to be present at important family events, he found a truly fulfilling life that sustained him until the end.

My one distinct memory of something my grandpa said (except the past few years when he asks me who I was again), came when I was getting my Eagle Scout award. I had just 18, and was dressed in a scout uniform that was too small and surrounded by family (and maybe a girlfriend and her family) on a pristine October General Conference afternoon. In presenting me the Eagle Scout medallion, my grandpa said something like this:

"We Brownings don't have a long list of famous people in our history. We are not well known in politics or business. We might not have anything that the world says we should be proud of. That does not stop me from being proud of what we have. We have a family that is close and a family that is good. As far as I know every member of the family for generations has belonged to the LDS Church and that makes us a faithful family. We can be proud of those things."

I know it is self-centered to say so (but there's no better place than a blog to say self-centered things) but my greatest sorrow with the passing of my grandfather is not that he has passed, it's that I have failed to live up to his legacy. His death is, of course, something to mourn, because I have lost a great person in my life. However, my trips to my grandparents' home have become much less frequent over the years and I'm unlikely to feel the immediate loss in substantial ways. My grandpa has been sick for a long time and I have been prepared his passing for years. No, my greater sorrow was one that I had not anticipated. Back in 2003 when my grandpa said those words that indicated the link between being Browning and Mormon, I couldn't imagine a time when I would be seen as a broken link in a long, sturdy chain.

Blessing Atticus

If I had a choice, I would wish that our family legacy wasn't tied up with belonging to a specific group or adherence to a specific faith, but it is useless to try to separate the spirit of the safety and love that I felt in my Grandparents home from the from the divine Spirit that they attempt to cultivate through adherence to the tenants of their faith. As I've retreated from full participation in the LDS Church and from many of beliefs I used to hold as incontrovertible, driven by a deep moral divide with many aspects of the Church, I've experienced the same difficulty, that of separating the good from the Mormon, in many aspects of my life.

The loss of my grandfather has struck me in the same fundamental way that my loss of faith has. Church used to be a place that I felt at home, no matter where the Church happened to be. My grandparents house used to be a place where I felt like a protected, comforted child no matter what age I was. Now, even if I go back to those places, while I'll still find people who love me and welcome me fully, they will never, ever be the same.


  1. Tim that was amazingly well written. It brought me to tears. I am truly sorry for the loss you have suffered. I pray that you find peace at this time of sorrow and searching.

  2. That was a beautiful tribute. I'm sorry for your loss. Love you.

  3. This made me cry, Tim. This was beautiful.

  4. I feel that same way about Grandma and Grandpa's house... it's been a place where I could feel unconditionally loved and accepted when so many other places and people failed to do so.
    While our family will likely never be able to accept the choices you make that are contrary to our deepest held beliefs, I believe and hope that we will always provide unconditional love, or at least try to(though some of us, like me, may not show it very well). Your link in the chain is not solely made of religion but forged by love and bonds of eternal significance. You will always be a part of it, even if in different ways than you believe. Grandpa has taught us about love more simple and enduring than we really know.

  5. This was amazing. I loved how you described what it was like growing up there. There's really no other place you feel quite as comfortable or has the same feeling. Though I don't remember watching Snick. Haha but I love the memories of family picnics, play croquet, putting firewood in the fireplace, and Lawrence many good memories with Grandpa and Grandma...Like that he loved ice cream, and called our cereal dog food :) I learned all my checkers playing strategies from Grandpa. He was such a good person, and always made you feel loved. Anyway thanks for your words. It was really well written. I've always looked up to you, and I still do. You're my super intelligent, awesome older brother no matter what your religious beliefs have :)

  6. Tim and Devany I appreciated reading your comments. You have such a talent with words. I second Devany's thoughts Tim. We do love you and appreciate you very much no matter what religion you are. But I will always hope and pray that you will reconcile with the LDS church. The Celestial Kingdom would not be the Celestial Kingdom without all my family gathered about me. Grandpa left a message for Eric right before he died in a letter at Conference. I can't tell you the exact words but it in essence he stated, "Search after the things of heaven." He knew that God lives and Jesus is the Christ. He had a constant testimony of the mission on Christ and the atonement. He always loved to gather his family around him before going to bed and read from the Book of Mormon and to say prayers. He endured to the end. I only hope that I can strive to be as good as he is.

  7. Appreciated your comments too Charity. We were writing to Tim at the same time. Love you very much along with your Sis.

  8. Well done, Tim. I never had the joy of having a relationship with a grandpa. One died before I was born and the other died when I was 3 or 4 years old. That was a nice tribute. I'm sorry for your loss.