October 13, 2010

My Daughter, The Girl With One Living Great-Grandfather

My grandfather was one of the most important people in my life. We had breakfast together before school several times a week for a few years. He was kind, generous, loving and understanding. I know that my mother, aunt and uncle knew a different side of him as well as this one, but I never did. In my eyes, he was wonderful all the time.

In the summer of 2000, just after my high school graduation, he was taken to the hospital for what they thought was pneumonia. It turned out to be an inoperable brain tumor. He was not given much time and I actually considered delaying going off to college for a year so that I could spend more time with him. In the end, he talked me out of it and I went.

Over the course of the illness, he lost his ability to write, read and speak. He knew what he wanted to say, but his traitorous body simply would not form the words.

During Easter break of 2001, I surprised my family by coming home. I spent several hours with my grandfather, telling him how school was going and just sitting with him, enjoying his company. I returned to school that Sunday, only to receive a call from my dad on Thursday telling me that my grandfather had passed.

One of the jokes in our family, which is only half a joke, is that you can tell how important a person was by the size of their funeral. My grandfather's service was packed, with every seat full and people standing, lining the walls three rows deep. The motorcade to the cemetery contained 97 cars.

I miss him every day and I have tried to live my life in a way so that he could be proud of me.

I have often toyed with the idea of writing a biography of him but I fear that my skills as a writer could never do justice to the life he led.

A few months before, I had ended my longest relationship to date with very mixed feelings. On one hand, I knew that it was not healthy for me or the young woman involved. Neither of us were treating each other very well and we should have been over several months before. On the other hand, I had even greater sadness now because I knew that whomever I ended up with would never know my grandfather.

Sara and I had many talks about this. She also lost her grandfather a year into our relationship and I did not get to know him nearly as well as I would have liked. I wish, more than anything else, that Sara and Harper could have met him and known him the way that I did.

It is a Jewish tradition that you name a child after a departed loved one. You can't use the entire name, just the first initial. This is why we chose an H name for our first born, as previously discussed in the fourth post ever in this blog. I know that my grandfather would have loved Sara just as much as I do and I know that he would have loved Harper even more.

I used to have dreams about him. Several times over the course of our relationship, I have woken up in the middle of the night sobbing uncontrollably and Sara has had to console me. The dreams are usually not sad, but the aftermath, the waking up to know that he's still gone, is crushing. Even as I'm typing this, almost 10 years after his death, I'm having trouble keeping it together.

My dreams are usually about us having fun, going out somewhere, enjoying ourselves and being happy.

Last night was the first time where he died. Throughout the dream, I knew he was alive and ill, but I went about my life as normal. Near the end, as I was sitting down to a meal, I received a phone call telling me that he had died. The food turned to ash in my mouth. I wasn't devastated, but I was unhappy and woke up soon after, thankfully not sobbing hysterically.

The dream did not make me sad for myself, but it reinstated my sadness that my daughter would never know her great-grandfather who meant so much to me.

I may have written this post before and I apologize if it is redundant. Occasionally, I need to talk about it again.


Anonymous said...

Grandparents are the most under-rated people on the planet. I had all 4 of my grand parents until I was in my mid 30's. To have that opportunity is rare to the point of being unheard of. Even today I have one remaining and she is 92. My children actually know her and call her by the very name that I bestowed upon her some 40 years ago. While they will never know her in the same way that I did, the will always have those limited memories and, rest assured, I will never let them forget her.

Justin said...

I read once that every person dies three times. The first is when the body itself dies, ceasing all functions.

The second is when the person dies in the memories of everyone else. When everyone who knew us is dead, all living memory of us is gone.

The third is name-death, when anything that has held our name is gone. This happens less now that we have the internet, but at some point, all trace of our existence will be wiped from the earth.

I'm trying to prolong the inevitable for as long as possible.



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