Marshall Craig was my grandfather. He was an incredible man. If you were lucky enough to have met him, your life would be better for it. He was a World War II vet, a traveler, a professor, a lover of the written word, and my favorite – a storyteller. I don’t believe I ever had a conversation with my grandpa where he did not tell me a story. And when Marshall Craig told a story – you had absolutely no choice but to listen with utmost attention as he drew you in with the twinkle in his eye that immediately captivated you until the last word.
Sometimes the stories were of the war – mostly funny ones, my grandpa starring as the captain of a minesweeper in the Navy. Sometimes the stories were of growing up in the South. At Christmas, that southern accent, long-gone, would be brought out for a reading of How Come Christmas. At his dinner table, I heard about England, and China – the friends made and adventures created. And after she left, years before he would, he talked about my grandmother. He would tell me about their courtship through letters, or the time my grandmother refused to go to the bathroom all day because she was terrified of venturing out to the shared toilet in their new apartment building. How they collapsed on the bed after he got home, laughing at the ridiculousness of it all. And so much more. His true love, brought back through words.
As much as I have loved every single one of my grandfather’s stories, no matter what the subject – my favorites were Shakespeare. Every summer since I can remember, my mother’s family would journey down to Cedar City for the annual Shakespearean festival. We would camp, as a group, up the canyon at Navajo Lake and then travel down to plays throughout the stay. And before each play, my grandfather would sit all of the grand-kids down to tell the story in his own, magical way. Understanding Shakespeare as an 11 year old kid is not the easiest task, but when Marshall Craig spoke of the betrayal and turmoil in Hamlet, you felt it. Later, while sitting in an auditorium, that feeling would re-surface and instead of confusion and tripping over the spoken language, you easily followed the characters through their adventures and misadventures. Through those summers, I grew to truly love these very special stories through a very special voice, and it is something I intend to pass on to my girls so that even though they will not remember him, they will be bonded to him by a troubled teen, haunted by his father, a play within a play, and a biting wit tamed by love.
My parents called me this morning to tell me that this wonderful man – the head of our family, had passed away last night, after years of struggling and pain. It was not unexpected, and there was relief for the family who watched him suffer. Throughout the day, as my heart has been aching, I hold on to what my sister Maiken reminded us of a few hours after I found out. Eleven years ago my grandmother left us and his words to her were, “When it’s my turn, I’ll come running.” No matter what I believe, or frankly, don’t know about what happens to us after we die – I will not hesitate to think of them, back together, re-living all the stories from their life, hand in hand.
I love you Papa Daddy, I will miss you so much.