Edmund August Schreiber was my grandfather and Thoreau’s notional man. Self reliant and humble but not without conviction. He outlived his wife, Hazel, by almost 15 years but did not remarry. Instead, he visited her grave, health and weather permitting, every single day. I know this because he kept a record on the calendar. One day he pointed to a handwritten number just short of five thousand and told my father that was how many times he’d been to visit Hazel. He knew everyone at the cemetery and they knew him. I was also told they cried when he stopped showing up because there could have been only one reason for this.
When my father and I went to the house after his death to begin the task of tending to his belongings it was the first time inside of his bedroom in many years. The room was not fancy, just a king sized bed, a night stand, a dresser and mirror with a few collectibles neatly arranged on top. I remember there were a few cologne bottles in the shape of antique automobiles. The mirror of his dresser had a wide wooden frame and tucked between it and the reflective glass were several different business cards. They were my business cards. And they were every business card I’d ever been issued since my first role as a junior designer. It was a neat and perfect timeline mapping almost fifteen years of my career, every title change, every promotion.
In that moment I’d never felt a greater connection to my grandfather in my entire life, even when he was alive. It was the start of real maturity, when I began to understand the idea of unconditional love, pride and legacy. To this day, whenever I’m fortunate enough to be promoted or to have taken a different role, I fly to Columbus and drive to the cemetery where I leave a newly minted card on my grandfather’s plot. I talk to him about how I’ve been since my last visit, about my life and about my wife and the great granddaughter he never met.
While I’ve been fortunate to have made more, traveled more, experienced and possibly achieved more than my grandfather ever did or may have even imagined for me, he reminds me the reason why we are all here, to create connections to one another. Lasting connections, some so possibly strong they can even transcend time and death. This humble husband and father continues to be a gold standard, a confidant and inspiration to me even after death. And while I have no belief in an afterlife and I’m perfectly content with the one finite existence I’ve been given, I hope my own connection to my wife, friends and my daughter continue to grow so unimaginably deep that they’ll think of me and want to talk to me from time to time even after I’m gone.