It’s been three weeks since Grandpa passed away. Actually, I just realized a month ago today was when we got the phone call that he was being given a 50-50 chance of surviving.
Christmas Eve, of all days to take a call like that. Mom, Grandma and I spent the night together crying and praying for the miracle that never came.
That stretch of time is both a blur and a century ago. I know my grandfather is gone, but at the same time, it doesn’t feel like he is. His presence is so large in all three of our homes – Grandma’s, Mom’s and my apartment – that it’s as though he went off on a long errand, stuck in line at Kroger with a gallon of milk, some Oreos and cat cans for Smokie.
That mental picture just made me smile.
Grief affects everyone differently. A part of me is wondering if I’m a nutty griever, finding solace and comfort in delusion. You know that little voice in your head that doesn’t sound like yours, the one that usually sounds like a parent or your favorite teacher from childhood? For the first years of my life, I used to joke it was my mom’s voice that was in there asking me why my Tupperware cupboard is a landslide waiting to happen. To be fair, Mom’s voice is still in there – she just took over as my co-pilot during the morning commute with a slew of colorful language.
The day to day observational voice in my head is Grandpa’s. I always knew Grandpa was funny and had a certain playful humor. He was a people watcher, and a few weeks back I needed to make a grocery store run. It was strange people day at the store – meaning all the strange-looking people were out and about.
“You ever walk in someplace and think, There’s some funny looking people here? Well, there’s some funny looking people here,” Grandpa’s voice remarked.
“Yeah there is Grandpa,” I replied.
I was pretty sure I was answering him in my head. Nope. It was out loud.
At least no one was around to hear me.
This past weekend I decided to spend Saturday night with Grandma. She’s handling his passing as well as she can – missing him, thinking of him, wondering if anything could have been done differently for him to survive and come home, and then feeling that maybe this was simply how it was going to go.
“You know Alli, they say that only 6% of all married couples will see 50 years of marriage,” she remarked yesterday. “Grandpa and I made it to 59.”
Mom’s hanging in there. I know I mentioned this in my love letter to Grandpa, but it bears repeating: my mother is her father’s daughter. Personality-wise they’re more or less the same person – same humor, same mischief, same restlessness. Her grief is the traditional kind, meaning there’s sadness and anger mixed together and that incredible feeling that something is missing that shouldn’t be. Mom and I have always been close, and this time isn’t any different. We’re leaning on each other and serving as shoulders for Grandma as well.
This past weekend at Grandma’s was nice. Mom came over after I got there Saturday afternoon, so all three of us got to visit then. Old friends and neighbors have been calling or bringing her food, so Grandma is both getting taken care of and seeing company. Her neighbor came over Saturday night with a homemade angel food cake that she said she’d never made before.
The cake was delicious by the way.
Grandma gave me a stack of ones and requested that I get us some Taco Bell for dinner. Which I did. It was supposed to be our little secret but Mom figured we’d be up to something and I wound up admitting I brought back Taco Bell. I don’t think the kid working the window had ever been paid in 20 one dollar bills before, and they wound up giving me an extra soft taco by mistake.
Before any of you think I’m a taco thief, I didn’t realize I had an extra until I got back to Grandma’s and was getting everything out of the bag. I don’t run around here taking tacos that aren’t mine.
The next morning Mom came over. Sundays are the days Mom will go over and take care of Grandma, and since I was there as well, Grandma got extra spoiled. We had some heavy snow roll in at 9 a.m. and local weather said the precipitation was supposed to continue until 4 p.m., which pushed back my departure time a bit.
Before Mom went back to her home and I was getting ready to get head out, she and I decided to head out to the shop. Grandpa had a building where he kept all of his tools and the old red work van. Grandma told us we were welcome to get whatever we wanted to out of the shop to take with us. The last time I had been in the shop was Dec. 17th, when I had gone out with Grandpa to get some tools he needed for a home repair.
As soon as we got in there and I saw all his tools, the paintings, the mowers, the woodworking collection and the few pictures he had of our family, it hit me that someone was missing. The man who breathed life between those four walls wasn’t there.
And at the same time, he was right in there with us.
Mom and I cried while we were in there. Being in there was bittersweet. Every single piece of the garage was exactly as he left it. His hand tools and tape measures were left on the bench. The little puppy bobblehead I got him over 20 years ago was still sitting in his office, as was a picture of me crossing the finish line at the Choo Choo 9 miler almost four years ago.
On that same desk I saw a note he wrote regarding his Triumph Spitfire. He dated the paper for 2-26-21 and jotted some notes about taking the car out.
Seeing that note brought my grief to the surface. It also comforted me, reminding me that his spirit really is everywhere. Underneath the note we’re two wooden gavels he made. I decided to grab one of them, as well as the little puppy bobblehead. Grandpa had a period of time where he made walking sticks to hike with. I grabbed two and brought them home with me.
I’m still not sure what it was about the note that struck my heart. Maybe I’ll never know. There’s a good chance I’m not supposed to know either. Perhaps I’m supposed to feel his presence and know he’s always in our hearts, that no matter where I go he’ll be with me.
Truth be told, I didn’t really know where I was going in today’s post. But then again, does grief ever really follow a straight pattern?
For those of you who stayed with me to the end, I hope you all have a great week ahead. Make today count.
Yours in writing and running,