I don’t expect this post to be good- in fact, I would be surprised if it winds up even readable. There are many things which I have been through, some of them my own making, and others the end result of razor-tipped butterfly effect, but I have never suffered a loss quite like this before. It devastated me when my great-grandmother died, especially because, in retrospect, I had plenty of time to go and see her before her time came (of course, I never did, but that was because I felt that she would be ashamed of me, and where I was in my life, which is more a testament to my own self-loathing than an accurate depiction of who Gram truly was. I now believe that she would have only been ashamed of me if I had well and truly given up: resigned myself to drug addiction and failure, without ever trying to reach the stars for which I had been yearning since I was a little boy.), but chose to stay away. When the news came to me of my grandfather, I was determined not to make the same mistake. And though there was nothing I could do beside bring a smile to his face upon his realization of my arrival, I felt that, this time, I was finally able to say goodbye.
Here’s the thing, though, and again, it says more about me as a trainwreck of emotional instability than it does of his decency as a human being that the most vivid memory I have of him was from one of the lowest points in my life. It was December of 2000, and my drug-addicted girlfriend and I were on a break (please try to remember what a social powerhouse Friends was during my era). I was still avoiding my mother due to reasons mentioned elsewhere in The Vaults Of Uncle Walt, and so I went back to the one place where I knew that I was always welcome: my grandparents’ home. They had both told me that I was like a fourth child to them, and that their house would always be my home, so, when I’d had no alternative, I came back to them.
My grandmother and I are very similar: stubborn worriers who must always have the last word, and who enjoy the sport of argument more viscerally than any other. The qualities which I inherited from my grandfather are far more… intangible. Intelligence, obviously (though my grandmother is no slouch herself), and an ease of learning which makes people who have to study begin to steam about the ears. Then there is the consistency of rulemaking, which my son can attest that I have inherited as well, which boils down to clear and concise rules regarding what is acceptable and what is not, and the consequences which befall each action. But, of course, there is no one better suited to describe what my grandfather gave to me than my own two grandchildren. For my part, I have merely attempted to emulate my own grandfather, be as patient and loving as my own grandpa was, but for them, to have someone to sneak them sweets, or goof around with them, or to exist as a neverending font of unconditional love, I think that they shall be eternally grateful to a man they never got to know.
I seem to have wandered off-topic for a bit, and for that, I apologize. Let’s see if I can pull myself together and get this missive back on track.
For the record, before I start in on this narrative flashback: We spoke some number of years ago about this incident, and came to peace with one another.
My life was spinning out of control. I was an intravenous drug user with a mission which might have made Don Quixote reconsider, and in no mood whatsoever to suffer the advice of someone who “just didn’t get it.” Everything was going more or less okay, despite the fact that I was living with my grandparents, and separated from my girlfriend for whom I had plunged headfirst into the icy waters of self-destruction (though, to be fair, it didn’t require any arm-twisting whatsoever). And then, though I remember it as coming from out of the blue, it might very well have been rooted in something topical, he began to lecture me about the importance of staying clear of debt collectors. At that point in my life, I hadn’t actually ever had anything in my own name (the benefits of dating a woman in her mid-thirties), and just knew that I knew what the hell I was doing. I mean, I did, and it all worked out in the end, but still… Statistically speaking, his talk was dead-center and on-point. And then… I broke.
I started shouting at him in couplets of salty metaphors, decrying his diatribes toward responsibility, and reminding him that I knew what I was doing (while philosophically true, I must admit that my methods are far more hands-off than I might otherwise care to admit). I then stormed out, in adolescent fashion, slamming the door behind me, but not before I informed him, in no uncertain terms that he could feel free to asexually reproduce (though, grammatically speaking, it was more of an imperative).
Perhaps someday I will allow myself to believe that I am worthy of the example which he set for me, though at this moment, I find it difficult to believe. I just hope that he knew how much he meant to a little boy who grew up without a father, who so desperately required someone to love him for who he was.
I love my grandfather, and I miss everything about him. I weep for the knowledge that I will never see him again, though I do not weep for him. I weep for myself, and for the world, as it must come to terms with the emptiness which remains in the wake of his passing.
I miss my grandfather.