My Grandfather passed away a few weeks ago. He was 91. There is a name for what took him but really it was old age. That and loneliness. My Grandmother passed over ten years ago and she left him to live out his days alone, first in my Uncles basement, then in an dank, dirty apartment and finally for the majority of the past years, in what is called assisted living apartment.
The family is divided now, he was what was holding us together and now that he is gone I can really see how little I like whoís left. I would have continued to see them if he was around, I would have held a Christmas dinner and served them beer, aquavit, a turkey etc. But since he has left I donít see the need to pander to them. Itís interesting that because of him were all together, and because he left we are all apart.
We were going through his things. I wondered what would be said about me when my children, or my Grandchildren, go through my things. We laughed at some of his books, he had written his name several times in them, did he really worry that they would be taken, and that his name written in pencil inside a cover would prevent this?
We critiqued his books as well. He had several Danish books, unfortunately few of us speak, let alone read Danish. I took several books; partly because I wanted to read them but partly because I had seen those books on his shelf for so long that I felt that they were a part of him. Again, I wonder what my books say about me.
One book I took I just now put down, itís 11:45 and the family is asleep upstairs. I couldnít fall asleep so I came downstairs and this book seemed to pull me to it. The Power of the Subconscious Mind, itís from 1963. It tries to persuade you to believe in the power of your mind to heal your wounds, heal your financial woes, and mend a broken heart. While reading the beginning there was a connection, I was thinking more about the idea that my Grandfather had read these words as I was reading them, I suspect he read them with more conviction but we read the same nonetheless.
We went through his things, I admit I wasnít available for much of the going through, so my Aunt did most of that. She had a few things that she was sure no one would want in a pile. A couple of watches, a pendant, a couple of framed up prints. I wanted to take it all, if nothing else but to tell my Grandfather that his things mattered, that what he valued someone else valued. I didnít take much. The pendant. Some books. I fought for a table that he had, itís in my house now, it has a piece of the Spanish Armada in the bottom of it. Iíve always loved that table. Iím glad I got a little hard about it. I asked for a scale that my Grandparents had had. I was never allowed to play with it, it was an antique. Now itís in my house and my kids arenít allowed to play with it, itís an antique.
Iíve made a list of things that are important to me so that if I die tomorrow my children will know what to get tough for and what do put in the pile.
1) The things from my grandfather are important to me, even if you donít recognize them. Please keep them in our family, in your home.
2) My books, please know that some are just for fun, I enjoyed ďShakespeare VampireĒ but it was not that important. I don't think any of my books have my name in them in pencil, but should you find one or two that do, keep them.
a. There is a 2nd edition Lord of the Rings book that I got from my cousin Jason, it was the only thoughtful gift I ever got from him, please keep it.
b. There are some Hardy Boys books in the crawlspace that were my Dadís, Iíve never read them. Donít worry about them, though they might be worth some money.
c. There are a bunch of books in the crawlspace that are by Anne McCaffrey, they were my moms, Iíve never read them either, but please keep them. Maybe read them and be close to her.
d. My school books were important to me, they helped me understand myself better, the worse the condition the more they meant, read them to be closer to me.
3) I like my family furniture and Iím sure it will stay in the family, I would like to think it would.
I feel the need to justify everything I have now. What a strange feeling. I canít imagine the image of a man people might get by going through my things. I have quite a few Star Wars posters, I really liked the movies growing up but to be honest they really donít mean much to me anymore. I have a couple of boxes of comics, again I really liked comics but I hope they will not define me.
I suppose what I would like to define me would have to be my children themselves. You canít divide them up but you can know that they are what really speak to who I am. I guess that must be what my Grandfather thought, though maybe not.
When I was growing up I always felt my Grandparents were the team, and the rest of us were fans. Yes we were there, and we were important, but we werenít going to make or break the team. Maybe what defined my grandfather was his marriage. It sure lasted, it was tough and itís partly the role model of a marriage that I use with my wife. My wife is important to me, she is my love, my better half, my drive, but she is a part of the team, my children are the other parts.
When we had the funeral I was asked to give a eulogy, something from the younger generation. I did, I think it went well. I cried but so did most everyone there. Iím sure my grandfather would have cried as well, he was a softy that way. I did the eulogy for myself; I wanted to prove to myself I could do it. I also spoke at my mothersí funeral several years ago. I donít think I got much out that time, I was a mess, as you might expect.
A Eulogy is a strange thing if youíre not religious. I wasnít speaking to anyone in particular, it almost felt as if I was trying to justify the funeral. ďThis man was important and good and thatís why you are hereĒ, a statement. Itís done and if I never have to give a Eulogy again it will be to soon.
My grandfather liked a good meal. He would eat and listen. I think he enjoyed the conversation much more than the food but for the past few years he has been a spectator and not an active participant. I remember he would enforce basic rules at the dinner table, no elbows on the table, no singing or humming, no bouncing, but as he got older he would burp at the table, not a loud burp but a short small one, and he would blow it to the side, away from anyone. Funny how rules change. Who would ever call him on that? What would you do to him, send him to the corner, make him sit on his hands? Iím sure my grandmother would have had a fit, she would probably have scolded him in Danish. Nai Eric.
I hope that rules are the same for me as they are for my children as I age, though if I end up burpy I hope they will forgive me and allow for some lenience. I often find myself enforcing rules with my boys. My oldest, 4, is in dire need of guidelines, a wonderful boy but a little whiney and very single minded as 4 year olds are. He did not attend the funeral. We did not see the point of him being there. What would he learn from it? What would the benefit be for him to see so many sad faces? Never mind Iím sure he would have been as bored as his older cousin who wiggled through the service.
I took some time while at the chapel to visit my moms plot, spot, cubby hole. It was there, just as I had left it several years ago. I donít visit there much. Itís a beautiful place, but not much to do. I put in a fresh flower and touched her plaque. We had it inscribed ďGone ShoppingĒ as a lighthearted ode to her favorite pastime, though now it seems a little too lighthearted. I walked to her hole with a cousin of mine, we talked about death. I told him about a thought from a book I had read, a favorite of mine, ďNo Great MischiefĒ in fact I named my oldest after a character from the book, though I added an ďlĒ. The idea is that once you bury a family member in the ground in a country you are then from that place. My Grandmother was the first to die from my mothersí side, but now we have buried both grandparents in Canada. Maybe now we are truly from here.
People left cards for us at the chapel. They were very nice. A card of sympathy, reflecting on a life well lived. A card offering to help with whatever can be helped with. Iím unsure what to do with these cards. It feels wrong to throw them away, people had written nice little notes in them. But in the end, I suppose they would end up in the trash.