I went through all of my favorites today. Photos I had collected and placed in small portable albums to take with me to far away lands. This was before digital cameras and USBs. I couldn’t find the one I was looking for. This one. I reminised of old friends and even found a few other gems of grandpa and I. I retraced all the places I stuck piles of photos that had once lived on my refrigerator door. And I found it.
I’m visiting during the summer after having taught my second year in Bangkok. We are at my great-grandma’s, up north. My grandpa is wearing one of the shirts I bought him in one of those far off lands. We were ‘arguing’. By arguing, I mean we were disagreeing on something in a very civil and playful way. I was being an adult and challenging something he said or believed and testing out my own world view. And we laughed. Grandma was sure it would end disastrously. But it didn’t.
We did that a lot that summer. They were living at the farm house with my mom and Jerry. I was ‘home’ for the summer. We’d sit on the back porch after dinner and I’d catch a glimpse into their own histories. I was finally old enough to appreciate their stories and their lives and I wished I hadn’t waited so long to ask. And even to argue.
I have so many good memories of my grandparents. And I love jarring those memories through photos. And I’ll pass them on to my own children. Though I know that Sebastian will have his own memories of Grandpa too.
The way that he always greeted you (and all of his children, grand-children, great-grandchildren) with ‘baby’. The way he reached out for a hug even if he was afraid to hold you as you got bigger and still needed to be held. The way he gave you kisses on your forehead or cheek that tickled and made you smile. The way he made you smile and how proud he was of you when he saw you walking in your walker. The way you sat side by side in his computer room, you in your chair and he in his, listening to Ella Fitzgerald and Billie Holiday and the like. The love that he felt that you knew in your heart.
Tallula will remember Grandpa differently because she’s so young. But when I showed her some of the old photos she said, ‘There’s grandpa and he’s not sick anymore!’
We said our goodbyes to Grandpa on Easter Sunday. I told Sebastian it would be the last time we saw him. As we bent down to give him a kiss grandpa reached out for him and Sebastian smiled. I cried then knowing it would be the last time I would see their embrace. Sebastian cried too because he knew that something wasn’t right. When I told grandpa we had to go back home to Canada he said ‘I love you’ and I cried some more.
When my grandma died I was half a world away in Australia and I didn’t get to say goodbye. I was on Saipan when my great-grandpa died and Egypt when my great-grandma died. I needed to be there to say goodbye to Grandpa. I needed Sebastian to say goodbye too. And we did. And I’m thankful.
Grandpa died this morning. And I’m ok because of those moments. Those memories. Those stories. Those photos. That love. And I’m smiling because I’m imagining that embrace so much I can feel it.
I love you Grandpa.