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Old slides bring on memories
Recently my grandfather's slide collection came to light. That's a big deal.

My grandmother (I call her Nana) talked about the slides for years and how they were "back there somewhere." "Somewhere" meant the bedrooms and she wasn't going to look for them anytime soon. I fondly called that place "the black hole" because I wasn't sure anything existed in "there" any more.

Nana shuffled off into the cold bedroom and flipped on the bedroom light. I followed her. Something great was about to happen. Nana stood in front of his closet, and suggested I look in there. I eagerly climbed over some items in the way and could see the slides on a shelf; they had been sitting in an old flat box wrapped in faded Christmas gift wrapping.

As I pulled them down and made my way back to her living room, I paused at the bed where my dear grandfather slept for 36 years. His bedroom had been closed up since he left for a rest home in Turlock only to never return. I hadn't been in this room since his passing in July 2007.

The box was a treasure. His slides hadn't been viewed in decades and they allowed me to see life through his viewfinder. You see, when I was young, I felt especially close to my granddad. The older I got, the less I connected with him. He was a silent man who worked hard on a grape ranch in Livingston; he worked when it was blistering hot in the summer and he worked when it was bone-chilling cold in the winter. None of the slides, however, show him at work. He recorded the times he spent with my grandmother fishing and camping at Indian Flats on that hot hellish canyon west of El Portal. Or the family picnics, backyard gatherings, the road trips to Arizona. Mostly the slides were taken the times they visited children who moved away.

Because I was his first grandchild, many of the shots are of me. As I raised slide after slide to the light and struggled to make out familiar faces, I could see that brown curly headed boy with impish grin appear more often than not. The slides showed me something that I forgot with the years: a special bond between grandfather and grandson. I don't know if I fully appreciated that fact until I saw the slides through adult eyes. It saddens me to know it now - now that he is gone.

My favorite of all the transparencies is of my grandfather and I sitting in the saddle on his horse. A lump developed in my throat when I recalled the bond that was there but slowly subsided. I was also sad because I have no memory of him taking me on a horse ride.

There was another photo that gripped me. The year: 1963. In it, Nana is holding me, and my Mom is holding my brother Kevin, in front of 2108 Seventh Street, Ceres. Another mother and her two boys are also in the photo.

My grandfather's sister, Dorothy Holland, lived in that house with her husband Jack Holland, who was one of the first offset printers in Stanislaus County. I doubt if he knew that his great-nephew of his living in the Bay area would later become the editor of the Ceres Courier.

I remember visiting their house many times. I especially took to their sons, Gary and Larry Holland, who were older than me. I remember playing in the backyard and watching TV as the adults visited for what seemed forever. I remember once when Gary and Larry led Kevin and I to Richland Market for sodas.

In those days Ceres was only a couple of thousand people big, Whitmore Avenue was a two-lane road, and Richland Market was located in what is now Richland Ace Hardware. Hatch Road was still packed tightly on both sides with orchards and no businesses.

In 1966 we moved to Modesto to be close to family. One evening Gary got permission to take me for a ride in his vehicle to a park (which had to have been Whitmore Park) where he met friends and goofed around like teens do. Gary liked to drive.

In was 10 in November, 1971, when Gary was killed in a car crash near La Grange. He lost control on a curve and rolled off the road and died in the wreckage. I came to realize at the moment of hearing that horrible news how brief life is, and how dangerous the world could be.

I can't forget how devastated the Hollands were. Nor will I forget how Aunt Dorothy recalled for everywhere what she was doing the exact moment the dreadful call came in: She was watching TV and remembered a commercial for the TV series "Big Valley" was on with Barbara Stanwyck uttering a famous line.

I rue the day that sin entered the world and we were all destined to die. Some of us, like Gary, die young. Some of us grow old and fade away, like my grandfather. So many others in that slide collection are gone, taken by drugs or cancer or old age. It seems cruel to able to hold up a slide to see healthy people enjoying life in the sun in sharp, crisp Kodachrome colors, only to know that they aged, their bodies failed and they moved on. As will I.

I believe most of us have thoughts of life after death. Some don't believe in it. Most do. I cling to that hope. In that blink of an eye, I believe that Jesus will usher me into His place where all those people in the slides will be found celebrating like nothing ever happened.

And I don't suspect we'll need cameras there.

How do you feel? Let Jeff know by emailing him at