So, last year I wrote something for Thanksgiving about family and loss. I’d forgotten about it until it popped up in my feed of memories on Facebook, and I thought that it would be nice to do another one for this year. And then I remembered everything that’s happened in 2016, and how there’s still a month left for everything to just get worse. Still, here I am, a week later, sitting down to try and figure out where it all went wrong, wading once more through the sentimental drivel of a life gone off the rails.
I spoke of my fears of losing my grandparents, and how it seemed so unreal when my great-grandmother died, and how I missed my brothers. In the back of my mind was also the fear that no one was listening to what I had to say, and growing, gnawing dread that my words would fall upon nothingness, and be greeted accordingly. It seems, of course, that the universe (at least, the one which I perceive), has a twisted sense of humor.
I won’t go into detail about the celebrities who’ve passed, for though many of them touched my life, they were still but stories to me. Nor will I go into any great depth about the presidential election which befell us, for though stark and terrible in its import, is something which must be faced in the coming months, and is still too close for proper reflection. No, in this Second Annual Thanksgiving Missive (or, What Kind of (Year) Has it Been, Part 3: The Sorkining), I will limit the scope of my despair to my personal life, and hold it up before you, like a cornucopia of lightly seasoned misery, to be nibbled upon while watching the world begin to burn.
This was the year in which my Grandfather died.
We all had assumed that it would have been my Grandmother to go first, but she’s still hanging on so that I can see her one last time in January. Now that I’ve said that, I’m sure 2016 will find some way to rip her from me, but I am ready for a fight with said construct of reality, and I’ve been saving up some swear words for this very occasion.
I made three trips up to The Island this Spring. The first was easily the best, as my Grandpa was still himself, though significantly diminished. The second was when I knew that he was going to die. I mean, I knew he that wouldn’t be around much longer, but it was on the second trip that I knew. Shortly after I returned to the Bay Area, he passed. I still have the Voicemail saved on my phone because there are times when I need my pain. I remember sitting at a table after my shift at Jupiter, and speaking to my mother on the phone while trying not crumble (and failing miserably).
The third trip up was for the funeral, and, as I may have mentioned, was bittersweet. It was the first time that all of his grandchildren were together in the same place and time. It was a shame that we never managed to make it happen while he was still alive. I bought a bottle of the Blue Label, and we grown children toasted our grandfather and tried our best to keep it together.
I know it is but a matter of time until I lose my Grandmother. And I know that, as stubborn as she is, there isn’t much of a chance that she can hang on until I can manage to get up there again. I know this, and I am close to breaking. My only wish, my only hope, is that, if she must go, she waits until it’s no longer my birthday. That may seem selfish, but I’ve got a clever plan to sacrifice my birthdays for the next forty years to claim each day until I can get back up there as an Honorary Day of my Birth. See how clever I am? See how desperately and fiercely I throw myself at the Inevitable?
I was too chicken to speak what I had written for my Grandfather at his funeral, and I will most likely be too broken to utter anything but whimpers when my mother’s mother passes, so I’m going to put everything down right here, right now.
It is my hope that when my turn comes to pass to shuffle off the mortal coil, that someone who knew me will be able to accurately (and embarrassingly) describe my life to those who think they knew me. And I know that neither my children, nor grandchildren will do justice to the task at hand. For I am one person to my kids (or rather, a couple, as they have known me in different capacities throughout their lives), and another to my grandchildren (who most likely feel, and not entirely incorrectly, that I was a pretty cool guy who had their back in minor skirmishes with their parents). That’s nowhere near the whole story of Tex Batmart, and not how I deserve to be remembered. But, because I enjoy juxtaposition, irony, and the doctrine of “Do What I Say, And Not What I Do,” here is her grandson’s eulogy of her:
For almost four and a half decades, my grandmother had a rich and exciting life which, I can only assume, happened to help her kill the time until I arrived. Sure, I wasn’t her first grandchild (beaten by just a few weeks by my cousin, Richard), nor was I her last (an honor held by my cousin, Carolyn, whose birth was sponsored by the Great Snowstorm of 1990 (The Great Snowstorm of 1990: For when one fortnight without power just isn’t enough!)). But, I can say, with no small amount of modesty, that at least I was the best. At the very least, I won by sheer proximity.
From an early age, my Grandmother was my favorite, having taught me my very first curse word in a moment of acute discomfort. And while I spent a considerable amount of time enjoying Grandpa Day on the Fridays of my youth, my grandmother was always there with a hug and inhuman patience as I was slowly becoming myself. But I didn’t fully appreciate her until I was a teenager.
You see, she wasn’t a pushover, by any means, but in her I found the support which I’d been lacking from the world. She stood by me on promises she’d made, and generally felt that if I was old enough to have opinions, I was old enough to see their consequences. It was this outlook which helped shape me into the man I am today, and has inspired my parenting style (much to the chagrin of my wife and child). In short, she treated me like a person at time when everyone else was telling me to sit down and shut up. And she would also argue with me.
Oh, how I will miss those arguments. I am tempted to compromise my spiritual beliefs just for the chance to spend eternity debating her. Of course, I don’t know if she would classify that as Eternal Bliss, so I suppose I’ll have to just stick to my beliefs, and leave her to her own.
She taught me how to be myself, and to fight for what is right (even if we disagreed on what that might have been). She loved me and accepted me for I was, and when she felt that I was wrong, she told me why, not just that she was. Her passing has a left a void in all of us which we shall remain unable to fill, and I hope that I can live up her to standards once all is said and done.
As for now, I will continue to endeavor to be better than I am, braver than I am, and maybe, one day, I’ll have the courage to face the Peter Pan ride at Disneyland without a sense of abject terror (though I’m sure that says something profoundly philosophical about me).
I love you, Grandma. And I hope that you are finally at rest, and at peace.
William Edward Yeo