Today is my Grandpa’s birthday. He would have been 97 and if you had asked me 6 months ago, I would have said he’d live to 107. His illness and passing were relatively quick, though I know he would have preferred to spend his last moments in his recliner in the solemn comfort of his home.
My biggest regret is allowing his stern and reserved notions to prevent me from sharing my passion for writing. He knew about it, but he never pried and I never offered. He was a strong, powerful man who lived with regrets like the rest of us. He could have been so much more and at the same time he was more than he ever imagined.
At the time of his death I spent weeks trying to compose the perfect goodbye, and I felt too much time had passed, so I left it and let it languish in my draft folder. I can’t hold onto it forever.
My grandpa decided long ago he didn’t want anything made of his passing, so no reception or funeral was held, aside from a gathering of family. So that moment family is given to say a word about the deceased never was, and I never got to tell what he meant to me.
I would like to indulge you a bit more, and my apologies for taking a personal moment.
Genetics aside, the creation of an organism, lineage and ancestry forgotten, without Grandpa I wouldn’t be here. He was important to my current life as the doctor who delivered me, his daughter who birthed me and the specialist who saved my week old life. Without Grandpa I would have been a footnote, a sad end to a failed marriage and a brother to a sister who may never had been. When doctors were ready to let life, and death, take its course my grandpa intervened. He was not a quitter. Never in his life had he given up on anything or anyone — not to say he was never disappointed – and he wasn’t going to give up on his daughter’s first child. Grandpa was a reputable man and through his actions was well respected in the community and the state, and he was able to reach beyond his grasp to achieve his goals. My life was his goal and his friends deep, so after a few calls he had my mother and me in his Buick driving us from Charleston to a specialist in Cincinnati. He watched after me and has his entire life and he has my entire life.
Grandpa taught me that family — despite disappointment — is the most important thing in life because family is life.
With my life or death, my mother and father did end up divorcing and my existence was not the glue that would mend their fractured marriage. The result would be a fatherless childhood, but I was never without a father.
Grandpa would be one of three men who stood in the place of my father, something I wouldn’t realize until years later and I suppose I through a good bit of teenaged angst his way when it wasn’t necessary. Kids are stupid, I was no exception. He taught me responsibility, to accept — not submit — life as it was given to you, and if what you got wasn’t what you wanted to work harder. I was slow to learn that, as with many of life’s lessons.
If I had been a quick study, I would have followed his footsteps and became a lawyer or maybe even a doctor. Grandpa wanted the best for us. Or I would have worked harder at my desire to be a writer, even though he didn’t believe creative arts were a responsible path for an adult to take. He would have been proud either way.
I’m going to take the time spent with Grandpa — now lost — and utilize it to further my goals, to make the choices he made for family count, to focus on family and provide them with everything I can.
When I think of Grandpa, I will remember riding downtown on Saturdays with him, all of 6 years old, as he ran errands to the bank, the grocery store and finally before heading back home to stop at The Diamond department store where he’d have coffee with his friends. I would get a doughnut and a chocolate milk, and if I were especially good we’d go up to the third floor to find me a toy.