Filed under: Growing Up
I think recently joining Twitter has stirred my need to apparently put my thoughts on the internet.
Shortly after my last post, my grandpa fell ill. My dad called me at work and told me that the doctors weren’t giving my grandpa much time. A day, a week, they couldn’t say for sure, but it wouldn’t me long. They could have hooked him up to plenty of machines that would have prolonged his life, but he would have been on them for what was left of his life and most likely would never regain full consciousness.
I wasn’t sure what to do. Even if we would have left right away, the man lying in the hospital bed would have very little resemblance to my grandfather. He was emaciated, his dentures were removed, and he was mostly unresponsive. We decided to wait until the weekend and made the trip to Ohio. The day we arrived he passed.
It’s been forever since a person this close has died. My last close family member that passed away was my uncle, and that was several years ago. Before that, it was my grandfather on my mom’s side in 1988. There have been others, but nobody this close. I’ve been lucky enough to rarely see the inside of a funeral home.
I think that’s part of why it was difficult to even address my emotions when my grandpa passed late last year. Because of the distance, I hadn’t spent meaningful time with grandpa in 10 years. I’ saw him at Christmas and Thanksgiving, as well as random visits throughout the year, but nothing regular and often with most of the family around. I always felt like my brother had made a better effort to get close to grandpa and I was somewhat jealous that I didn’t have that relationship. Then I remember how my brother never really got to know our other grandpa and my selfishness gets put in check.
I made it through the visiting hours and spent time with my grandma. It was so bittersweet to see family I haven’t seen in years. I hadn’t seen one of my uncles in close to 20 years. We caught up and shared stories. It’s weird and sad to think that it takes funerals to bring so much family together.
The funeral came quickly. My dad and his brothers and sister handled the arrangements. The flowers came from everywhere, reminding us of the fingerprints my grandpa left on the lives of others. I took Sarah around to several of them, telling her about the family and friends that had sent the notes of sympathy. My uncle asked me to be a pallbearer, giving me a last chance to say goodbye.
It was surreal at the funeral. I had felt so disconnected throughout the entire process, caught up in the whirlwind of family and planning; it wasn’t until the funeral that I had a chance to address what it meant to say goodbye to grandpa. I thought of memories of Christmas Eves throughout the years and watching him nap in his recliner. I thought about the times he faked napping only to surprise us with a wadded up wrapping paper sneak attack. I thought about the way his selective hearing managed to improve as time went along. Practice makes perfect, I guess.
What I’m about to write though, I’ve only told Sarah. I think it’s because it freaks me out. Nothing like this has ever happened to me before, but I still recall it as real as I did that day.
As I was sitting there, listening to my grandma’s voice carry over everyone else while we sang an old hymn, I was face to face with the finality of it all; I started to cry. I don’t know how or why, but the very room and funeral home started to drift away. I was suddenly in my grandparents’ house, standing in their living room with no one else around. It was a beautiful day and sun was pouring through the windows. It was quiet, and their house was never quiet. I remember picturing myself there, not entirely sure why, but feeling like I wasn’t alone. I looked down the long hallway from their living room to the door. It was wide open and an unnaturally bright light was pouring around a tall, slender figure. I knew it was grandpa. He stood their in one of his best flannel shirts with the suspenders my brother always snapped. He had the hat on that he always wore when he went out. I remember knowing exactly where he was in the crowd by that hat. And he had his smile; a smile I hadn’t seen in a long time. It was huge; part mischief, part pure joy. It was grandpa’s smile. It felt like as soon as I knew it was him, his smile got bigger and tears welled up in his eyes. He waved as he turned, and closed the door behind him and walked out.
I’m not sure why I’m typing this out; some people might read this and think I’ve been drinking too much. I’ve never had anything like this happen, and I’m not sure it will ever happen again. There, while in my seat at the funeral home, I was able to say goodbye to my grandpa in his own house in a way that I’ll never forget.
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