Friday, January 31, 2014

Death of an Idiot

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.

So he 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.

When 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 mother!"

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.

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