He was a small man in the world’s eyes – ordinary, keeping to himself, living in countrysides and suburban Pennsylvania hamlets during the tumultuous decades following World War II. A plumber, a husband, a father, and a fervent protector of his family and homestead, (he slept with a cross-bow under his pillow), he was, to most, simply another man of many men who blended into the tapestry of humanity spread across the contours of this fluid globe.
But this quiet life of his gave his ordinary grand-daughter a passion for exploration and discovery, and his 2-year-old great-grandson a rapturous fascination with the moon and stars of the inky night sky.
I remember my grandfather, Myron Buzby, as a man whose eyes disappeared when he smiled, whose hair remained bushy and full until the day he died, whose jokes involved sticking his tongue between his teeth when he thought we didn’t catch his tomfoolery, and whose mischievousness generated little packages of M&Ms and Hershey bars that appeared under our pillows when he wiggled his ears. Easter was always more epic when coupled with his talent for hiding Easter eggs in masterful places – sending my siblings and I scurrying around the house in anticipation of being the first to find those candy-filled treasures.
Visits to his old restored home in the lonely and beautiful hillsides of Tioga County meant that there would be croquet matches in the grass, blackberry picking in the windy sunshine, precarious perches on the stony edge of a burnt-down barn as we wondered again and again what unseen treasures lay inside, and exciting excavations of the ground beneath his back porch where we would find glass bottles from the early 1900s that became reverently housed on our shelves at home.
But probably most notably, this grandfather of mine had an untamed fascination with the heavens; stars, galaxies, super-novas, and the possibility of extra-terrestrial life trillions of light-years away in another universe captured his imagination. He owned a massive telescope, and thrilled in showing us mysteries through that telescope unseen to the human eye. But though he showed these things to us with incredible enthusiasm, in reality, I believe his enthusiasm took him to another dimension – a realm of dreams and daring truths untenable to the human mind. When he taught us to peer through his telescope at the star-filled sky, the cratered moon, the mysterious Mars, and Saturn’s rings, I don’t think he was aware we were even there; the vastness of this world, its possibilities, and its mind-boggling beauties were so captivating that his entire self was drawn into another dimension as he studied the night sky’s attributes.
To me, the single most influential fact about my grandfather was his love of the heavens, and his zeal for those heaven-filled marvels kindled in me that same excitement, curiosity and zeal, and as a little girl, I became star-struck of my twinkly-eyed grandfather, just as he was struck by the stars twinkling in the sky above us.
As I grew older, every time I went outside on a clear night, I stopped to look up and scan the sky, and anytime a character in a book like Harry Potter studied the magic of astronomy, a piece of my grandfather was there with me, lingering in the pages written by an author who never knew this simple Pennsylvania man existed. The uncertainties, the mystery, and the undiscovered crevices of our world crept into my dreams and tugged at my fantasies until the supernovas lit up my imagination and inspired stories, poems, paintings, and ignited a further yearning for the spiritual, the unknown, and that elusive “something else.”
In an ironic twist of fate, when I opened my browser this morning before I sat down to write, Google informed me that today celebrates the would-be 105th birthday of the Mexican astronomer Guillermo Haro, who discovered new classes of nebulas and is credited to have re-ignited the then-stagnant study of the field of astronomy in Mexico. Haro’s wife, Elena Poniatowska, was quoted in an interview that it was Haro’s mother, who, upon gazing with her small son at the mountains in Cuautla, told him that beyond those mountains were other mountains, and behind those, even more mountains, and then even more. It was this simple moment in Haro’s young life that sparked his curiosity of ‘the world beyond’ and eventually inspired him to pursue the field of astronomy.
Because of my grandfather, I am awed by the night sky and its fire-filled orbs, and I believe that in some small way, through the passion passed down from my grandfather to me, my two-year-old son adores the same stars and moon, and beseeches me in his eager little voice to go outside every night to find the moon’s haunting glow. The stars on his little nightlight cast dancing shadows on his walls that captivate his little mind before he lies down to sleep. His imagination has been stimulated through three generations. Who knows what one day will become of his fascination? Perhaps he will pass it down through the years, so that either knowingly or unknowingly, three or four or five generations from now, another Galileo Galilei will emerge.
I suppose what I am trying to say, is that through my grandfather’s ninety-one years of life, I learned that one doesn’t have to be a “Legend” to leave a legacy, and that the formation of those “Legends” is often owed to a legacy left by someone, somewhere, at some time. Nothing and no one in this world is insignificant; the cascading effects of living a faithful life can create a lasting legacy for generations to come.
I hope I will be as faithful in my own small life as he was, and in that faithfulness, inspire my own children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren to dream of beauty and discover truth – learning to love the world they live in and striving to seek out its glories.
Thank you, Grandad, for your faithfulness.
(In loving memory of Myron Buzby: March 1927 - March 2018)
“…that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.” – George Eliot