Perhaps some of you have noticed that I haven’t posted for a while. I’ve been trying to come up with ideas for motivating, positive posts, but I haven’t been able to write. I think because there has been grief sitting on my chest for a while and I’m afraid if I don’t write about it, it will not go away. So pardon me for being totally personal in this post – I hope that once I’m done writing it, I can get back to ‘normal’.
This week marks the one year anniversary of my Grandpa Roman’s death. He died days after his 87th birthday, peacefully, at home. He had only been sick a few weeks. It was the kind of death he told me he wished for, prayed for – quick, little pain, after a long, full life.
I want to attempt to explain just how important he was to me, though I’m sure that’s not really possible. If you had the pleasure of knowing him, you would understand that he was one of a kind. And I don’t know how I was lucky enough to be his first grandchild, to grow up less than 2 miles from him, to spend every Christmas (and many, many other holidays) of my life with him. I supposed I realize the depth of my luck now, because of my sadness, because of how much I wish I could have one more steak dinner on Christmas Eve with him, or listen to his laughter as we opened gifts.
He had such a good laugh – it was loud, generous, easy and he didn’t do it at other people’s expense. He didn’t mind noise, in fact he liked it. Nothing ever embarrassed him. He loved Patsy Cline, John Wayne, fried chicken and a good drink. He drove too fast but never got pulled over. When people didn’t have a home to go to during holidays, he invited them to ours.
He taught me to play cards and checkers. He played baseball with us in the summer. He won an inflatable boat once and let us use it as a kiddie pool in his back yard, even though it left a muddy spot in the lawn. Whenever we spent the night at his house, he made us popcorn. He collected antiques and taught me to see the value in things with a history.
He loved me. I’m very sure of that, even though we were different. He knew how to talk to me. And he knew how to make me feel heard. When I decided to move to New York City when I was 23, he was the only person in my family who did not tell me I was crazy or try to talk me out of it. He looked me in the eye and said, “You know what? Go. You’re young, you have no obligations, you’re smart, you’ll be fine. I thought about doing those types of things once. If you wait to do things, sometimes life has a way of stopping you.” Then he added, “Of course, I’ll miss you. But I’ll be here when you come back.” He wanted me to live as much as possible, even if it took me far away. That act alone taught me a great deal about what love really is. He was always happy when I called him with stories from my adventures. Once, he asked me if people struck up conversations with each other on the subway. When I told him no, they keep to themselves, he said “I can’t even imagine.”
He had a saying he used often and it was the last thing he ever said to me, “You behave. And if you can’t behave, be like me.” And I will be trying to be like him, for the rest of my life. He had his faults but ultimately he was an enthusiastic, generous, optimist human being. He believed that things had a way of working out. If you were good to people, they would be good to you. That if you did the right thing, God would do right by you. He didn’t philosophies about those kinds of things – he just lived that way.
Once I moved away from home, we started going to lunch every time I came back to visit. Those were some of the best conversations I’ve ever had, with anyone. We talked about it all: life and people and where the world was headed. He often said, “Look at how much the world has changed in my lifetime, how they can store so much information on something the size of a thumbtack, can you imagine what it will be like when you are my age?”
We were from two different worlds but somehow we understood each other. He was not just my grandpa, he was one of my favorite people in the world. I’d like to think I was one of his too. And anything I say here will not be able to fully express how much I miss him. Or how much it still shocks me when I think of calling him to “chew the fat”, and then realize no one will answer the phone.
I talk to him anyway. And though, most of the time, I know exactly what he would say, it just isn’t the same when I can’t hear his laugh.