The summer I was seven, I lived in the woods. Well it wasn’t just me; I was with my brother and cousins. And it wasn’t the whole summer; it was only a week. And we came back into Pop and Nana’s house for meals and to sleep. The hours spanned like years made up of minutes that felt like days. We made up stories and we “fed” ourselves on acorns wrapped in maple leaves. We even built our shelter. Okay, my cousin Evan built our shelter while we claimed it was a group effort (we know better now). Evan is three years older than me, and he knew what he was doing. Each summer he’d come alive in those Pennsylvania woods. It wasn’t just the woods that made Evan come alive – it was being with Pop. I remember our fathers’ father, William Lindemann, in his waffle breakfasts, his hearty laughs, and his warm welcome of “Hello there, sweetheart,” every time I walked through his front door. Evan had a deeper relationship with Pop, one that I can’t quite explain. Even now, almost twelve years since Pop’s death, I see so much of Pop in my elder cousin – in his loyalty to his friends and family, in his hard work, and in his moccasins and old man clothes.
Last summer Evan got married and we celebrated a new cousin joining the family in his wife, Emily. At their reception, my father gave a blessing to the new couple before he asked God’s blessing on the meal. Dad shared with the friends and family gathered of Evan’s bond with Pop and spoke aloud what many of us were feeling – we wished that he was here to celebrate. We wished that he was sitting at the ceremony with a smile on his face as his young partner-in-crime watched his bride walk down the grassy aisle. We wished that he was there to eat with us, to drink with us, to celebrate life with us. Dad told Evan that if Pop were here, he’d say he was proud of him. And he’d have added, “It’s about damn time.” We all laughed, with tears in our eyes, hearing Pop’s voice in our minds. I laugh, even now, to think of it.
I learned a new word this weekend – sehnsucht. It’s German and I still can’t say it quite right, but I wonder if it’s a little of what we were feeling in that moment. Hard to translate, it has meanings of “intense longing” and C.S. Lewis spoke of it as a “deep joy.” As we sat there laughing and crying, I felt a longing for what couldn’t be and a joy for what was.
Yesterday afternoon Emily gave birth to a beautiful baby boy. As pictures flew around the family through texts and Instagram, my heart leapt with joy over this new life – this new beautiful life in our family. Soon after the pictures arrived, we received the text with his name – William Thomas. Instantly I felt what I could now only describe as sehnsucht. I felt a longing for what can’t be – that Pop will never hold his great-grandson and that he isn’t here to celebrate. And I felt joy for what is – a new generation beginning, bearing the name of a family legacy.
I wonder what will make Willie come alive. Will it be the woods and art? Maybe waffle breakfasts and being with family. I can’t wait to hear his laugh and welcome him through my front door. I know his dad will tell him many stories of his namesake, and because of that he’ll bear it well.