32 Summer 7 Moon 58 SpaceAge 22 July 2015
I ask myself: Why am I so fascinated with the life of my great-grandfather? Could it be because he, and all his near family are dead and buried years ago, and there remains practically no controversy to ruffle the feathers or rock any boat – unlike my immediate family, alive now, who have occasionally called me out to tell me I should not have said – or written – such things about them, no matter whether it is the truth or not. Well, maybe, perhaps, yes, that has something to do with my fascination: that my great-grandfather and his immediate kin are a relatively safe subject, if you will pardon my pun.
Or, perhaps, it is merely my name-dropping ego, knowing that this particular great grandfather (I had four, you must know) is the one who was a much removed cousin of the late princess Diana Spencer Windsor, and so, thus, my brother and I are both also distantly related to the current and future princes, perhaps even kings, of merry olde England.
Yet even that glitz and glamour might be exaggerated. Yes. Or rather, no. For, you see, even in my dreams, instead of a fantasy about Windsor Castle, I keep seeing the truth: my grandmother’s little house in Alameda, on the eastern shore of San Francisco Bay. She was little Nellie, my great-grandfather’s youngest baby, and I knew her last years well when I was a child. I knew her as my sweet old grandma – my father’s mother. I also knew her older sister Caroline and two brothers Robert and Daniel – the last being he after whom I was named (although he died when I was a mere infant).
So perhaps the deeper part of my fascination with my great-grandfather Frank is that I knew his children and they continue, years after their deaths, to measure time and history for me, in my mind, in my heart, in my life.
History, yes, there is also history. For you see, dear reader, my great-grandfather Frank Cogswell, who practiced many years as an old country doctor, lived his entire life on that historic cusp between frontier and modern times. His son Daniel once wrote that his father had never known the automobile, he had been a horse and buggy man, only. That after many a long night spent at the bedside of some suffering child, miles out on the rolling prairie, he would doze in the buggy riding slowly back to town – Lincoln, Kansas – secure in the knowledge that the horse knew the way home.