Grant Spradling has lived a full life. Fufilling, Unconventional… one of Laugher and of Love.
Among much, much else, Grant has authored and published five books, and this week he will launch his latest, The Chelem Papers. Actually, there are to be two events:
Tuesday September 18th for Merida residents at: Hennessy’s Irish Pub, on Paseo de Montejo, 5 pm.
– and –
Wednesday September 19th for those who live at the beach: The Bull Pen in Chelem, 5 pm.
At both venues, Grant will speak about the book, and readers will also have the opportunity to meet his publisher, Lee Steele of Hamaca Press.
When he was younger, Grant thought he would perhaps see 80, but if that happened, he felt sure he’d be in full dotage, with nothing new to look forward to. “How wrong, wrong, wrong I was,” he says with a sly smile. “I am 89 now, and while the past nine years have included a number of culminating experiences, they have also introduced new people, challenges and perceptions.” Publishing The Chelem Papers is his latest accomplishment, but he also survived a serious heart attack in 2015; and this year Grant’s resiliency has been sorely tested by the death of Clifford Ames, the love of his life.
Grant Spradling came into the world during the first years of the Great Depression. His home, Wetherford Oklahoma, (a town smack-dab in the middle of the dust bowl) was part of a farming community, but it did have a college. Grant initially studied there, but he left when awarded a scholarship to Oklahoma City University and Boston University School of Theology. After his ordination in the Congregational Church, he lived in Attleboro and Cambridge, Massachusetts.
His family and the town where he grew up shaped his life. The Spradlings found stability and succour through strict observance of their religion. They did not condone swearing, drinking, smoking, and certainly not homosexuality. Grant had no choice but to closet himself. He says that this denial of his true feelings cost him dearly but it also built up resilience and determination. When he met Clifford, he refused to be defined by the past that had formed him. After about ten years as a minister, Grant left his parish to become a professional singer.
I asked him how he and Clifford met. He gave a hearty chuckle, and said, “The first time we heard each other speak, we were drawn like magnets by our accents. We came from the same place.” He then got misty-eyed, “And from then on, we stayed in the same place.”
Their world widened to include, a writing career for Grant; and the painter’s life for Clifford. They resided in several different parts of the USA, including Key West, Florida where Grant received the mentorship of well known authors. A few years later, the winds blew strong from the south and eventually carried Grant and Clifford across the Gulf of Mexico, to Merida. They bought a sprawling old colonial house, and built their forever home. In time, they extended their radius to inlude Chelem, a small fishing town.
Grant has journeyed from the dustbowl of his youth to the tropical ambiance of his present life. The loss of his life partner coincides with the departure of his closest expat friends in Merida. He finds himself cared for by two Merida friends and their families; he says he finds it fitting that he and his two Yucatecan friends find themselves so involved in one another’s lives.
Nonetheless without Clifford, Grant says he often feels like “a kite without a string” or “a bird with no wire to settle down on”. And after saying this, he turned to look towards the back of his property.
My eyes followed his, and they focussed on an amazing Alamo tree. Long ago, it sprouted next to a building that once stood there. Maybe the tree and Grant began their lives about the same year? Anyway, now the building has crumbled except for an old piece of wall, encircled by the tree’s roots. The foliage spreads high above Grant’s house and pool. Maybe the tree offers a substitute for his “kite string”? Or “bird wire”?
“I feel an outpouring of love. I know now that the meaning of life is found in living fully and helping others to live fully,” says Grant. The tree’s roots anchor him and the branches shelter him, just like his two friends.
I look forward to getting my own copy of “The Chelem Papers”… Grant’s stories make for a great read and will surely give me much to ponder.