My grandpa passed away tonight. He was 91.
This is how I’ll always remember him: comfortable in his chair, whether it was with a book and a grandchild (that’s my sister in the photo) or falling asleep watching The Frugal Gourmet while home for lunch. That chair is the hottest commodity in their house, followed closely by his chair at the kitchen table.
At some point he stopped being the one behind the camera at all the family occasions. At some point he stopped driving – they stopped driving. They didn’t come to Jenn’s wedding, or to my second. Travel was too difficult. I can’t imagine the feeling of losing yourself by inches over a tremendous amount of time. Hands no longer steady enough for surgery or woodwork. Retirement, finally, at 79. Walking with a cane. No longer having a garden. Pride compromised by infirmity.
My grandparents had more than a lifetime together. If we’re lucky, most of us get 75-80 years on this planet. My grandparents were married close to 70. Seventy years with another person. Can you even imagine? The home nurse is staying with Grandma tonight, and Tom will be there soon, if he’s not there already.
Mom called while we were bowling, then texted me to ask me to call. I tried to go outside, then stopped in the foyer in my rented shoes. It was like a physical blow, then a literal lump in my throat, then kicking off the bowling shoes and standing outside, doubled over, sobbing. I had just been talking with my friend about plans for the weekend – whether I should go to Vegas for a friend’s wedding, whether I should cancel my plans just in case – so they knew what had happened and surrounded me with hugs. We came home and sat on the step and smoked pink and blue cigarettes and I drank a bourbon and told stories.
The time that Grandpa tried to convince me to eat disgusting cabbage rolls by making them talk to me in funny voices.
His old man pajamas, bow ties, and slippers.
His poached eggs and tea in the morning. How many eggs must Grandma have made for him in a lifetime? 10,000? More?
His shampoo – Herbal Essence something in a green bottle – which I would always use when I visited.
That photo of him on his pony.
The way he would always make sure that we had money and gas before we hit the road.
His wood shop in the basement.
His “office girls” that would still take him to lunch more than a decade after retirement.
The y-shaped scar from his heart surgery in 1999.
And, in my drawer, a delicate bracelet brought home from the Philippines, where he was stationed as an Army (?) doctor during World War II.
I love you, Grandpa. I hope that wherever you are tonight, you’re at peace.