My grandfather on my dad's side passed away this past December. I meant to write more about it at the time, but the days slipped past me and I found I didn't have much energy for reflecting on it here. He was 90 and he was ready, I think. The past 6 years had been the hardest for him, I think, and for our family. He got depressed in the later years and slowly withered, and it was hard for all of us to watch this formerly strong and vibrant patriarch become smaller and quieter. He was a complicated and wonderful man. He is the first of my grandparents to leave us.
I was called the morning that he passed and my younger sister and I drove up to sit with my dad, his sisters, my cousins, and my grandmother. The thing I will always remember was my grandma's hand resting on his arm while he lay there, repeating every few minutes "He was a good guy, ya know."
It's okay though. I don't have a lot of experience with death, but I feel the pain and the peace in it all at once. Today I got a few boxes with my name on them, from my grandparents house. They were artists and collectors. Something I remember about them was their love of Antiques Roadshow. They always had a big glass cabinet full of unique kitschy toys and pieces of art. Some of them fairly valuable, others not so much. I remember it almost being torturous as a kid, gazing up at all the little treasures that I couldn't touch. I remember which things we could touch, maybe half a dozen things out of the whole collection. A jacob's ladder, a wooden snake, a bouncy ball… So in that sense it was very strange to open up a box of things that I can touch now, especially in light of the distinct realization that my grandpa is no longer here for me to hold.
Those things are just things, although they will serve to remind me a little bit of the house where my grandma tiptoed us into the kitchen to sneak a cookie while all the adults were talking. When I wear the apron I got I'll think of how proudly my dad spoke of my great-grandmother and her good southern cooking. They say I take after her.
My kids were very enamored with the little treasures, and although it made me cringe a little at first, I let them feel and experience each one. I see the value in these small treasures, because each time I see them I will have an opportunity to tell the kids about how their great-grandpa was a great designer, or how he so valued a creative spirit, or how deeply and plainly he loved his family despite his often gruff demeanor. I will tell them about how he would play this game with us where you could just say any word and he'd burst into song, and somehow that song would always contain the word you chose. These are memories that make me smile.
I do better not to care about things much. I am always working to simplify. But I do see the value in remembering where I come from. I have respect for it. It makes me think about heirloom veggies- how they grow and slowly change and the best parts of the plants are taken in seed and saved for the next generation to try again. What results are strange, juicy, strong, vibrant lines of plants that have a history of survival. I recognize that in many ways we are much the same. I feel gratitude for my roots.
I also want to take a minute to thank each of you for your support and comments to my last entry. They were so appreciated.