My Mom's Father died at his birthday party. Not with a dramatic struggle, understand, he passed quietly mid-nap. I wasn't at Grandpa's last birthday party because I didn't exist yet. I've never met the man. He was turning 49 that day, I believe.
blew out his candles, lay down on the couch with his first grandson who
was then a fat curly haired one year old, and died. Poof, kablooey,
bam, sigh. Nobody knew he was gone right away, of course. He was
allowed to lay there with a sleeping baby curled into his chest for
hours. It was his birthday, after all.
I don't know
much about Grandpa aside from him having picked a relatively interesting
moment to die. I couldn't tell you if it happened in the winter or
summer, spring or fall, I don't know when his birthday was. I picture
it happening in the fall because that's when my birthday
is. People are selfish narcissistic creatures and I'm no exception.
I say I don't know much about him, I mean I can't be sure of anything.
I've heard plenty of the platitudes you expect to hear about a guy who
has been dead for years. By all accounts he was a nice man, soft
hearted and good natured, maybe even a pushover? I sat on the porch
during a thunderstorm once and comforted my mom as she sobbed for hours
about her dead father. At the time she told me I was like him, that
he'd have enjoyed meeting me. I was seven or eight and very moved at
the thought that I might have both found kinship in and pleased this
dead saint, this mystery dream patriarch.
My Mom would
have given that same speech to my older or younger sister had either of
them been sitting on the porch with her, and in fact years later I heard
her tell my younger sister that she was just like our dead Grandpa and
that he'd have enjoyed meeting her. Still, at the time, I got the
impression that if he'd lived my life might have been different. I was
robbed of my champion.
I didn't hear my
Grandma talk about him until I was older. Not because she cared to
spare the feelings of children, it had just never come up. But there it
finally was, "Oh, well, he was an idiot", in the same tone as the more
common "Oh, girls, your mother's an idiot" and the much later, frequent
and right up until the end of her life, "You're just like your idiot
Now unlike Grandpa, I had gotten to know my
Grandma. She was highly intelligent and viciously ambitious and
suffered the entirety of her life from the misfortune of having been
born not only poor, but female. She was plagued by idiots, her lineage
forever tainted by the necessary choices she'd made. I don't resent her
narcissistic eccentricities, she'd have killed for her grandkids, and
she was alive.
So maybe Grandpa was an idiot, maybe he
was a saint, or maybe he was just a regular guy who died before he got
the chance to disappoint his kids.
Either or, Happy birthday, Grandpa, whenever it is. I'd have liked to have met you.