A personal thought on sadness and grieving.
My grandpa died last week. He was a good man. Always made me feel included, and that’s hard to do. Even as the only brown-eyed-adopted kid in a family full of blue-eyed-bloods, he made sure I had a seat at the table and a pencil to do the crosswords. That’s what I remember most about my time with him. Sitting at his hand-built kitchen table, doing crosswords in lead pencil. Careful. Precise. Old-school. Loyal. When I was younger, I would sit on his bony knee, feeling like my fat ten-year-old tush would crush him. He never complained, not once. Not even when diabetic knees would wobble and shake. I would eat Peanut M&Ms right in front of him, ignorantly, impatiently asking why he couldn’t partake, and he would respond calmly, kindly, “I’m diabetic! I can’t eat sweets!” I would nod as if that made any sense to me, continuing to munch on the sacred candy while Grandpa taught me the love for games that would come to fill my life forever and ever. Scattergories. Cards. Hungry Hungry Hippos.
He never let me win, like my other grandparents, either. Grandpa kept me focused, interested, and honest in every game. We always used pencil, in case we made a mistake. He was traditional in that way, not often taking risks. He had a strong faith and a blooming garden. He had a large family and several family reunions. He liked to have the family together. After crosswords, we’d go to play Dominoes in the dining room, and my sister and I would run across the living room to grab the metal box. Grandma would hand out iced tea as we dumped the clattering dominoes onto the table, and screamed at the avalanche of noise. My Dad would keep score on a nearby notepad, and my Grandpa would take his seat at the head of the table, ready to start.
My dad called me Monday morning to let me know the news. 8:17 am, my dad takes a break from his work, his hard, difficult computer job, to tell me he’s lost his father. My grandpa.
My dad is the spitting image of this man: Kind. Honest. Considerate. Gentle. Both are/were masters of words and games… Meanwhile, I’m halfway across the country and unable to give him a hug. If it was the same time last year, I would have been with my dad in Hawaii. After growing up in rural Greensburg, Indiana, my dad built off the hard work of his mother and father to bring my sister and me a good education and countless trips. A year ago, I would have been with him in HAWAII! Probably fighting over our score on the daily Wordle, and using it to claim our intellectual superiority. Unfortunately, my dad often won. Grandpa passed his love for games on to my dad and me. I wonder if Grandpa ever played the Wordle. For months, my dad and I exchanged Wordle scores, my dad always staying loyal, waiting for me to answer with my score (even if it took all day), and never, EVER spoiling the daily word. Consistent. Loyal. Trustworthy.
Just like his dad. As life as in crosswords, my Grandpa was loyally married to my Grandma for sixty-seven years (!!). My generation gawks at that number. It seems impossible to fathom faith for so long. But, for my grandparents, they had a love and companionship like no other. As a grandchild, you don’t get to see too deeply into your grandparents’ relationship, but I saw from a young age it was something to strive for. They were best friends. Partners. Daily board game competitors. Parents to five unique, rambunctious, nerdy children.
My aunts and uncles are the biggest Midwest nerds I’ve ever seen. They all have funny accents and live near cornfields. But they all were raised by loving, loyal, and kind parents, and so they turned out loving, loyal, and kind, as well. It will be a packed funeral, and, if this is the family I think it is, there’s bound to be games played on the visit, as well. Between tears.
My Grandpa made an impact on his family, both blood and adopted (me). And, even with the limited time I was able to spend with him, I’m sure I’ll miss him. There will be a hole in the family that’s impossible to fill…
Even with a lead pencil. Jokes feel strange when you’re grieving, but they’re also nice.