‘You left me with goodbye and open arms’

Today I went to the place where I took my mom and grandfather when they visited me here last year, a restaurant on a lake. I didn’t eat there — I just walked around the lake and enjoyed the unexpectedly hot, sunshiney weather.

I took my mom there when she visited two weeks ago, and she marveled that my 80-year-old grandfather had managed to get around there — it was a hike. I remember walking very slowly and being ready to help him if he needed it, but he was good. He was thrilled to be spending the day with me, in a pretty place I picked specifically because I thought he would love it.

I remember apologizing to him, for the length of the walk. And I remember him telling me not to worry about him — that he didn’t want to miss out on anything and he was happy to get a little exercise. Moreover, he was happy to be able to get around.

*cue the tears*

I often wonder whether he’s still *around.* I notice that anytime I talk to Mom on the cell phone, the line is full of static. Not horrible, just noticeable. I can hang up from that call and talk to absolutely anyone else, and the line is crystal-clear. Mom got a call the other day, and the inbound number was all zeroes. We’ve long believed that’s a long-distance message from heaven, and I’m glad she got it. It was silent when she picked up, but that was OK. She knew.

In any event, I digress. What came to me today is how much my grandfather really enjoyed the little things. Every moment meant something to him. He didn’t complain when he had to walk a little farther than someone his age should have been expected to. Instead, he saw the rainbow shining through the fountains. He marveled at the architecture of the bridge. He remembered a story from when he was a little boy. He simply beamed and basked in the glory of being given another new, enjoyable experience.

And then there’s me. I’m not ungrateful, but lately I come off that way. I’m the first one to say I don’t wear a seatbelt because I have a death wish — that if I’m going to be in a crash, I’d better go flying. Don’t let me limp away with a small injury. 😉 And damn it, I don’t look at the road while I drive — I’m pretty fucking surprised I’ve made it this far unscathed. *knock on wood* And when anyone asks what I’m doing for the weekend, I’ll say that I’m drinking myself into an oblivion or that I’m jumping off a bridge or slitting my wrists. But I always say, “See you Monday!” afterward, so I hope people know I’m kidding. 😉

My grandfather hated to hear me talk like that. He was so afraid of living life without me in it. And now that I have to go on without him, well, it blows. No matter how bad things got, he was the only one who could see the bright side. And maybe he faked it sometimes, but it always came and he was the only one who wasn’t surprised when things took a turn for the better.

I guess I could hear him in my head today, saying, “See? Everything’s working out. I knew it.” He had faith and strength enough for all of us. So now, when it comes to having my own, it’s hard because I knew back then that if I gave up, he never would. But now if I give up, there’s no telling how I’ll ever get it back. So, defeat isn’t an option.

I’m proud of how far I’ve come. But I’m sad because he isn’t here to celebrate, because there was never anyone more proud of me than him. Like Mom and I always wonder, how on earth will either of us ever find anyone who loves us as much as he did?

“Like sand on my feet
The smell of sweet perfume
You stick to me forever
And I wish you didn’t go,
I wish you didn’t go
I wish you didn’t go away
To touch you again,
With life in your hands.
It couldn’t be any harder.”

— The Calling, “Could it be Any Harder”

Mom worries that when we move, he won’t be able to find us. That she has to give up his house and that I’d at least had him at this one. I remember he’d left behind a Starbucks cup on my balcony. I left it outside for months — it was my little reminder that when he’d been here. And shortly after I threw it away, he died. I remember him smiling and smoking and talking to my cat (Kadie) who had wandered onto the porch to join us.

I didn’t know it would be the last time he’d visit me. And I would never get back to Pittsburgh to see him — we would only go on to meet in Breezewood, if and when I could get away from it all. I feel like I lost out on so much, and that he lost out on so much more to come in my life.

But to Mom’s point, I think he’ll find us — he’ll always be around. And all we can really do is keep making him proud, because he expected great things from both of us and we’ve got to honor him in that way. So from this moment on, I’m resolving to stop fucking up, to not live so adamantly on the dark side, to find the joy in everything.

Well, I’m sure I’ll never *really* stop fucking up. 😉 And my own special brand of sarcasm defines me. But that last part? He set the best example in the world, so it shouldn’t be too hard to follow. …

Comments closed.