I've written here before about how important my grandmother was to me; how she got me started on science and computers, and how she and I spent every summer reading the Oz books, and how the set of old (some first edition!) Oz books I have from her is one of my most prized possessions. I've rarely talked about my grandfather's role in my life, since he died before I had any sort of electric journal (back in 1996), while my grandmother passed this past year and thus has been on my mind.
My grandfather, Thomas Cooper Tatman, was an interesting character; of visible gypsy heritage, he usually spoke in a thoughtful baritone monotone with a Philadelphia accent, and was rarely seen without his pipe. Almost nothing ever phased him... at his memorial, his best friend's widow summed him up as "Cooper was the sort of person you'd want with you at the end of the world. Everyone else would be running around screaming, and he'd just take out his pipe and look around, and say calmly, 'Now, now. There's no reason to get so upset; it's only the end of the world.'"
Much of my political viewpoint comes from him; just as my grandmother and I had our Oz books, grandfather and I had our little tradition as well. When I was younger, he used to read me from his nearly-complete collection of Pogo books (I think he was missing only two or three). A great deal of my political philosophy -- in particular the attempt to laugh at the ludicrous nature of political campaigns rather than taking them too overly seriously -- comes from early exposure to Walt Kelly.
The Pogo books were supposed to go to me, but they vanished at one point before my grandfather's death. While cleaning out my grandparents' house in Philly in preparation to sell it, my mother and aunt came across the Pogo books. My mother mailed them (along with other things, like a first edition of 'The Adventures of Baron Munchausen') back home while in Philly, and they just a few days ago; my mother brought them over to me today. The Pogo books have spent the past few years in the attic, damp and chill, and their covers have become a bit brittle while already being dog-eared from years of love. Despite the somewhat tattered condition, I know grandfather would want them read rather than sitting on a shelf.
I spent a bit of time this evening sitting and reading Positively Pogo, and feeling the memories. I still hear all the characters speaking in my grandfather's voice when I read them, and my mother and I laughed over remembering how he'd do different voices for each character, one of the only times we'd hear him speak in something other than the measured, unshakeable baritone monotone. Even though he's been gone for years, I found it means a surprising amount to me to have this connection to him, to hear his voice in my head again as I read through these old pages...