I haven’t written about my grandfather in a long time. After his death, my entire family was devastated. He was our patriarch. He was more than that actually, he was amazing.
When he had passed I was so sad that certain people just did not understand. Since he had lived to be so old, 90, there was no real reason to be sad; I should have been celebrating his long life not feeling sorry for myself, said these people- who while somewhat calloused, were right. There was no reason to be sad for him. For me, he was gone. And it hurt. I wanted to explain that he was more like a father than a grandfather, my dad never having been present. Thinking back, I do feel really lucky that I was into my late 20’s before I lost him, but at the time that fact did not help it hurt less.
My grandfather was a WWII veteran turned pacifist. While he was a (later I found out highly decorated) veteran, he was sure to make us understand that he didn’t agree with the real reasons that were behind any war. He was explaining our war driven economy to me long before the “no war for oil” people.
He loved food. We would sit together, ever since I was very small, and watch cooking shows. We watched The Frugal Gourmet, Julia Child, Jacques Pepin, and when I was older Emeril, Paula Deen, and Rachel Ray. Grandpa loved Rachel Ray; he used to say “there’s my girl” whenever she came on.
And of course this lead to his experimenting in the kitchen. I was his favorite cuisine buddy. He could get me to at least try most of the more weird stuff he would come up with, while the rest of the family refused to eat anything too exotic or too healthy.
I, actually, was his favorite all around. I think this is the reason my mom so unapologetically favors my brother. If you wanted to be anyone’s favorite, I think you would want to be grandpa’s. I tell my sister she’s my favorite, and she says that it doesn’t count.
We had so much fun. He taught me to appreciate, art, classical music, drama, food, cars, politics… He took me lots of places when I was small, and I think was baffled by my bossy egotistical demeanor. I thought I was pretty phenomenal when I was a kid. (When the world finally did take me down a peg, I have to admit that I think I probably deserved it.) My reactions to things caused him continual panic. I think he scrambled to find kind yet effective ways to deal with my brash questions and remarks, especially in public.
But he loved me. There was no person in this world who held so much affection, love, kindness, patience, and sense of duty. He beared with my family and was always there for us because it was the right thing to do. He took care of his mom, brothers, sisters, and then daughter, and grandchildren up until his last breath. He gave so much to all of us always.
At our last meal together, he sat at the table where I would usually sit (to the left of the head) and he asked me to sit in his place at the head of the table. It was incredibly symbolic and it honored me so much, but once I sat I kept getting up and down because I didn’t want to upset my mother, who I would think by nature would feel herself the one to be in that spot.
But here I am, the one who is filling that role. I’m cooking for everyone, picking up the slack on the housework, acting as counselor and mediator, and being the one that everyone in the house wants to spend time with.
Tonight I sat down in one of the recliners in the living room and sort of rocked back and forth in very short gentle rocks and I recognized the sensation and remembered the years I spent curled up in his lap in his rocker while he watched tv. It was the safest place for me in the world, and I would go and find him and sit on his lap until I got too big to do it. Even then I would plop down on him for a laugh and to get a reaction out of him. It brought tears to my eyes.
I am really so lucky and so blessed. I was with him when he died. He chose to be at home, so I came down to care for him so my mom could continue to work. I am so glad I did this.
I am sure his soul is at peace, somewhere. Maybe here.