Discovery by Sherry Hall
Sherry Hall is an artist residing in Colorado. Within this memory of her father’s passing, she comes upon a family secret as a young girl, and a peaceful remedy to the assumed barriers of the generations.
My grandfather, “Zaydie”, was an intimidating man. Like many men of his generation, he hated showing any sign of weakness. Zaydie was an old-fashioned no-nonsense conservative. He was stoic. He was proud. Zaydie was a successful entrepreneur who demanded a lot from himself and expected the same from the people around him. I loved Zaydie, but always felt a little awkward and inadequate in his presence.
One afternoon when I was 13 I was waiting in Zaydie’s car for him to return from an errand. I opened the glove box to rummage for a pen. I was surprised to find instead a plastic sandwich bag full of marijuana buds. I was dumbfounded that my grandfather would have such a thing in his possession.
I put the bag back where I found it, and wondered if I should say anything. I was afraid if I mentioned finding the pot, I might get in trouble for recognizing what it was. At the same time I was extremely curious. When Zaydie came back, my curiosity won out. I told him I had found something interesting in the glove box. He didn’t understand at first, so I pulled out the bag of herb and asked him to explain.
A flicker of alarm crossed his face. For a moment I was sure he would tell me he didn’t know anything about it, and then demand to know how it got there. But Zaydie surprised me.
“I got it for Michael” he said quietly.
Zaydie looked at me and saw I didn’t understand what he was talking about. Michael was my father. Michael had died of cancer two years earlier.
“Do you remember how sick your dad was in the final months?”
I nodded. Memories of my father’s agonizing death still haunted me regularly.
“Your dad asked me to get marijuana for him to help him feel better.”
“And you agreed?” I asked. I couldn’t believe my stuffy grandfather would resort to breaking the law, regardless of the reason.
“Not at first.”
Zaydie explained that initially he had refused Michael’s request. It wasn’t until Michael had wasted away to a skeletal 110 pounds that my grandfather finally bought marijuana as a last desperate attempt to help Dad start eating again.
I noticed tears welling up in my grandfather’s eyes.
“Did it help Dad?” I asked.
Zaydie tried to collect himself, then told me the marijuana did help my dad a great deal. Dad’s appetite returned, his weight stabilized, and his emotional health improved, too. “Then why are you upset?” I asked gently. (By this time my grandfather was wiping tears from his cheeks.)
Zaydie told me he felt guilty that he hadn’t acted sooner to ease my dad’s suffering. I had never before seen my grandfather cry or show remorse for anything. In those painful moments of confession I saw him in a new light. He was a fragile fallible human being, just like me. I gave Zaydie a hug and a kiss. I told him the important thing was that he had helped Dad before it was too late. I pointed out that some people would have never relented. This seemed to comfort him and we both sat in silence for a few moments.
I thought things over carefully and then couldn’t resist asking, “If you bought this marijuana for Dad, why do you still have it? Dad died two years ago.” If I was surprised before, Zaydie’s next response completely floored me. (I can only guess how hard it must have been for him to discuss this with me.)
“Your dad wanted me to smoke it with him. He thought it would help me come to terms with his death. So to make him happy I gave it a try,” “and he was right. It surprised me, but getting high with Michael led to some amazing conversations between us. We talked about our philosophies and faiths…fears and regrets. In fact, we ended up learning more about each other in the last few months of his life than we had in the whole time since he’d been born. We got to be friends, and I enjoyed that.” “So now I keep this stuff around and still smoke some of it occasionally.”
“You’re saying it’s okay to smoke pot?” I couldn’t believe what I’d just heard. “I’m saying it’s enjoyable and I do it, but it’s still against the law and I could get in trouble for it. Do you understand?”
I understood perfectly. I promised I wouldn’t turn him in.
At that moment I almost told Zaydie that I smoked pot, too. I wanted to tell him how it had helped me get through my own grief in the aftermath of Dad’s death. I wanted to confess that without it, I would have probably committed suicide. I wanted to share all the wonderful insights I’d had from stoned conversations with my buddies. I wanted to let him know that the pictures and sculptures I had been creating, the ones that he liked so much and showed off to his friends, had all been inspired while I was high. But I was 13 and understood that Zaydie’s enlightenment had limits. So I wisely kept silent, and smiled to myself. Whether Zaydie realized it or not, marijuana had built the bridge that brought my grandfather and dad together – and now it had brought my grandfather and me together, too.