My memories of my grandfather, John Simpson Alexander Ettinger, are filtered by time & conversation & photos.
Memory is like that. It is not always clear or concise. It is created by the influence of who we talk to & interact with & who we become.
But some memories are clear. I remember when my grandfather took me to Love Field in Dallas to watch the planes. He worked for Braniff Airlines. He was still able to walk then.
I remember climbing into his lap when he was in the wheelchair. He always kept a roll of Lifesavers – Pep-o-Mint - in the shirt of his pajama pockets. Perhaps he did this before he was in the wheelchair. I don’t have that memory.
And there is the memory of letting me plant watermelon in the flower beds. But I am sure I have that particular memory because I was told the story over the years by my mother.
I do not remember when he built a sandbox for me the backyard of the house on Wylie Drive he & my grandmother Helen shared. I hold the memory of his greenhouse & the flats to start seedlings from old slides & photos & stories.
He was the only son of a farmer, an only son who left the farm in Pennsylvania & discovered my grandmother in Texas. He always had a garden, he always planted.
My memories of grandfather outside a wheelchair have faded from when he & my grandmother were living across the street on Wylie Drive. I don’t remember visiting him when he was no longer mobile, in a bed, stricken by ALS.
Perhaps because I was very young, my parents Jack & Jean decided to shield it from me. Perhaps I went. Perhaps I saw. Perhaps I have filed that memory in a long forgotten filing cabinet. I ask Jean & she tells me that she doesn’t remember. She tells me other stories that she does remember & I listen.
After my grandfather had to leave the house on Wylie Drive for a hospital, I do have another memory. The look on my father’s face when he lost his own father. I was too young to attend a funeral, but I remember that look in the aftermath.
ALS is an insidious disease. It attacks the body & leaves the mind intact.
As I watch the ALS Ice Bucket challenge, I am always reminded of my grandfather. And I am reminded of the purpose of the challenge – to raise awareness for ALS, to contribute to research for a disease that has no cure or treatment.
All the videos, all the internet sensation supporting this cause has raised an unprecedented amount of money for ALS research. To date: $80 million. Amazing.
But, at the same time, there are posts of challenges to very young children, who cannot possibly fathom the stories behind the challenge & who have to be coached by their parents recording the video.
And too often, no one mentions ALS or the ALS website where viewers can donate.
The ice bucket challenge did not go viral as a game. It went viral as a cause.
If other worthy causes use the ice bucket challenge to raise funds - wonderful & I support it. It worked for ALS & I hope it works for other diseases that need a jolt in awareness & funds.
For me, all that ice is about my grandfather. John Simpson Alexander Ettinger.