My granddad’s memorial is in one day and 14 hours. I got off of work less than half an hour ago. Tomorrow my partner and I are driving to the memorial. The extent of my packing thus far is: three pairs of underwear and one pair of pajamas.
All week I have been submerged in Ann Pattchet’s latest, This Is the Story of a Happy Marriage (review to follow), mostly because Ann Pattchet satisfies me in a way no other author does and partly because the book was due back at the library today. Looking back now, I suppose I could have been putting off packing. I am very much looking forward to seeing so many members of my family. I am at least equally and positively anticipating hearing what anyone and everyone will have to say about my granddad. And, even though I know that at some point everyone needs to die, I still don’t want to go and admit that he’s gone.
Here is the best way (thus far) I have come up with to sum up my granddad: He was a man’s man with enough sweetness to help raise two thoughtful, intelligent, charismatic, and loving daughters.
He was good throughout. In the last few years he would say things that I knew I could have objected to, but I did not because he was so good all the way through. And, because I feel that we should let those over 99 years old say what they say—so what if we need to set ourselves aside to better see their meaning. But mostly because he was my granddad.
He was a man’s man. He could tell a story—he included all of the interesting and pertinent details and left out all the rest. The stories he told were extraordinary and descriptive, and he was always willing to stop and explain if the listener had any questions. He had manly stories that lacked bravado about fascinating topics like the Dust Bowl, logging, sleeping in banks under tarps, and working in factories. And unlike many storytellers, he was just as good at listening.
For many years I could only picture my granddad in the sharp bucket hats he used to wear. These mental pictures also often included my granddad smiling with a dirty trowel. I remember him gardening. He was always tending to the tulips or sprucing up the back yard. Later after my granny’s Alzheimer’s began to really assert itself, the trowel in my memory is replaced with a pie server or a can opener. What kind of person learns that their partner has Alzheimer’s and teaches himself to cook and bake? A: The kind of person my granddad was.
I can see him with a newspaper. Maybe he’s reclined in his chair reading it, or maybe it’s resting on a side table next to a wooden puzzle as he dozes. The puzzles that used to litter his living room have since been passed on to my partner, because aside from my granddad, my partner is the only one who can solve them.
How can I explain my grief in any words but “all-encompassing” and “bittersweet”? I am near senseless in how grateful I am to have received the gift of knowing my granddad. I am devastated by this great loss.
I love you lots, G.
P.S. – C says hi.