‘I miss him talking back’

Today we buried my grandfather. It is the saddest and unquestionably worst day of my life.

The extended Manson Family has been in town and let me tell you, the wrong member of this family is in that casket. I plan to do a password-protected entry on the assholes who keep butting in, calling shots and otherwise making my mother crazy, but today is not about them.

And after today, it never will be again. He was our only tie to them, and they didn’t know him or love him like we did. The loss is theirs, but they don’t realize it.

We had a viewing last night. Nearly 100 people came out to give my Grampy a last round of hugs and kisses. You couldn’t rip me away from the coffin — what I miss most is hugging him and smelling like his cologne (Boss). And my Mom, a perfectionist till the very end, had our funeral director friend spray him liberally. It will be the last time I hug my Grampy. It will be the last time I smell like him all day.

It may very well be the last time I can function in life without a therapist.

The good thing about the funeral director being your friend is that he went above and beyond for us — he was the only one outside of a small group of wonderful friends who loved my grandfather with all their hearts who cared that Mom and I had just lost the most important person in our lives.

Our friend even sat with Grampy while we weren’t able to be there. He has known us for a decade, at least, and always loved coming over to hang with my family. (He took care of my grandmother’s funeral seven years ago, so he’s a big part of our lives.) He was more broken up about losing our beloved little man more than his stupid brothers were (I asked him to read my eulogy and he sobbed through the whole thing). What he said about hanging out with Grampy in the funeral home was how much he missed having him talking back.

He’s not the only one. That house is so empty without him. He’s everywhere, yet nowhere to be found.

Until someone tells me this was all a joke (and I saw the coffin be lowered and the vault be closed — it took that for me to believe it), I guess I’m going to have to learn to live with the guilt that we couldn’t save him and the fear that he hasn’t yet crossed over, because he wanted so badly to be with us and just wasn’t ready to go.

I had told my grandmother weeks ago (in my mind, as she always seems like she’s with me) to let us keep him for awhile longer. Once she got him back, she’d have him for eternity — all we were asking for were a few more years.

But, alas, he’s going back to her. I always suspected he was the one who loved more in that relationship, and I hope she was ready to have him with her again. All the man ever wanted was love — I am certain a thousand angels were thrilled to have them join their team, as he has enough love to take care of millions of people. But his two angels down here would rather be able to hug him just one more time. …

In any event, my mere meanderings here do not do this man a whit of justice, so here’s the goodbye I shared today:

Feb. 24, 1926 – Nov. 27, 2006

It’s been almost a week since the world went flat, yet we’re all forever changed because we were lucky enough to know – and be loved by – my grandfather Cal.

My Grampy brought so much life, love, hope and joy to everyone around him, no matter how much his body was hurting him. He was everybody’s hero and friend, and he was the best friend in the world to me. And the world – our world – feels like it has stopped without him.

Grampy was a king among men – a man’s man, of course, but it was the women in his life who couldn’t help but fall in love with him, time and again. My grandmother Rose, my mother Robin and I have always been the center of his world. Never a day would pass without great big bear hugs, showers of whiskery kisses, fresh-picked flowers he found in the yard and an endless stream of compliments – he never missed a chance to tell us how pretty he thought we were, how much he loved the meals he was served, how lucky he was to have us, and how proud he was of us.

When I remember him – and the true tragedy is that seeing him in my mind is all I can do now – I see him with those sparkling blue eyes, illuminated with joy and his arms outstretched. He always called Mom and me his babies, his angels, his beautiful girls. He always told me he was going to cover himself with glue so that the next time he hugged me, I’d be stuck to him forever and ever – and he’d get to go with me wherever I went. And now, he always will.

While I’m glad he’s in a place where no one can hurt him anymore, it’s neither right nor fair that we are here today to mourn his passing – this man had more than enough life, love and spirit in him to last another 20 years, at least. Today we should have instead welcomed the opportunity to tell him, just one more time, how much we loved him back.

Every day held magic for him … and it was magical because of him. He enjoyed sunny days on his porch, having a cigarette and feeding the birds and neighborhood pets that gravitated to him. He smiled at strangers, lent a hand to friends at every opportunity (and always unasked), and influenced or perhaps even changed thousands more lives than those of the people in this room.

I could tell you a million wonderful stories about this man, but we’d be here forever, and we need to let him get “on the road again” to see his Rosie Girl. Besides, every story I have to tell turns out the same: Someone was in need, and he came to our rescue. He performed superhuman feats to make things right – or right again. The work he did as a friend, neighbor, brother, uncle, husband, father and grandfather brought him honor as well as joy.

The thing with Grampy is that he was fueled by being generous, and knowing he’d made a difference in someone’s world. I’ll never know how hard things might have been, or what he went without having, to ensure that we had a good life. And we did – his affection was genuine, his love unconditional, his appreciation of our time boundless. And even now, he wanted nothing more than to come home to us, to keep taking care of us as only he could.

I can’t remember exactly when his hair started to turn gray or the pain started to worsen, but he was never more alive than he was this past year. He loved his pretty house, his guitar, the road trips he and Mom took to see me, and just the wonder in everyone and everything — that all kept him young. He wrote songs whenever he could and lived each day the best way he knew how.

One of the many wonderful things about him is that no matter how much he was hurting, he never missed an opportunity to light up for anyone who needed a smile – he never seemed to run out of those. You couldn’t help but love him – it was downright impossible not to.

The world seems so empty and somber without him in it, as he was such a magnanimous presence. It’s hard to believe he’s really gone from this plane of existence, but the impact of the goodness he exhibited, and the love and respect he generated, will be felt for generations to come.

And in that, we will always have proof that he was once here and the world was once right.

Sleep tight, Papa Bear.

3 Responses to ‘I miss him talking back’

  1. Tiff :

    That was beautiful, honey.

  2. Lachlan :

    *hugs* I second that.

  3. karmajenn :

    That was a beautiful dedication. I’m so sorry.