I know I posted something very similar last year, here but I am still feeling it pretty hard and wanted to write about it today. Read or don’t, at your discretion.
I was seven. Tiny Toons was playing on the television in the hospital waiting room while we waited to be allowed into the room to see my best friend. My grandfather. It was 1992.
I was talking to him. I asked him if he was going to die, and he promised me he wouldn’t. Later, that promise is what I was most hurt by. He lied to me. I am sure he only did it to save my heart, but the lie made it hurt more.
It was when we got home that night, after leaving his bedside, that we got the call.
At his wake, I tried to climb into the casket with him. When I touched him, he was so cold. I remember his face, so peaceful, so solemn. My tiny heart breaking even more when they pulled me away.
As our car pulled into the driveway that night, I feigned sleep. I didn’t want to move, I didn’t want to walk. I was still small enough to be carried inside, and I must have fooled them because someone did carry me.
Over the years, November has been tough for me. My depression becomes deeper, my anxiety more pronounced. I have a harder time trusting people. Especially those I love most.
His house was a tiny thing in a residential community. Neat little houses, all alike, sitting next to each other around a bit of lawn and climbing rocks. I don’t know that they were meant for climbing, but that is what I did with them. Climbing, jumping, whatever I could use them for. Sometimes, I would search around their bases, looking for insects and other small animals. Once, I even caught a small snake. I took it inside to ask if I could keep it, and my father told me no, but grampa said yes.
When I was sick, I would stay at his house rather than going to school. He would get lunch brought to him every day by a man named Harvey who worked for Meals on Wheels. I would hide under the coffee table in the living room and jump out at him. He would always pretend to be scared, though now I know he never was.
On the back of his couch, grampa would keep coloring books and crayons for us kids. I would take the Barbie ones and color all their hair yellow. Even the ones that were black from the printer. I was always annoyed that they felt they could choose for me what color hair they would have.
In his kitchen, there were always two things. Regardless of whatever else may be in there, he always had raisin bread and Moxie. His kitchen table was for pick up sticks and barrel of monkeys.
He would sit in his armchair, by the window, smoking his cigarette and watching Star Trek on his huge old box set. The kind where there was no such thing as a remote control. On top of the TV was a small plaque that said “God is Good”.
I would sit on his lap, and he would read to me, and give me candy out of the jars between the window and his chair. He always kept candy there, separated by type into the jars. Whether it was for his many grand kids, or if he liked candy I never asked. It didn’t seem to matter.
On the wall of the living room, next to the kitchen, there was a photo of his wife. My grandmother passed the year before I was born, but I hear she made the very best fudge. There was a placard under her photo saying just that. I wish I could have met her.
I wonder, today, what he would think of the woman I have become. I know he would love my girls, I wish he could be here to sit and read with them, to sneak them candy, and give them Moxie from his fridge. I am sad that they will never have the best friend that I had.
The pain of loss becomes easier to bear over time, not because it becomes less, but because you adapt to it. Your heart is a muscle, and the more it takes on, the stronger it must become.
I think of him every day, and even now, I am fighting back tears, but I can bear the pain now easier than I could when it was still fresh. Part of that is because I am no longer a seven year old girl, but I know it is also because my heart has gained strength because of his loss.
He would have been 103 this year.
10/12/1912 – 11/16/1992