A VISIT TO THE PAST
I saw my grandparents today for the first time in almost exactly a year. I remember this because I see them this time every year. In August this same week. No matter what. It’s a little weird because if you have not figured this out, they are dead. Which may make it even stranger but it doesn’t . I am the last of the family who can see them this time of year. They died almost together, just 22 years apart. Three days in August separate their passing, I’m not sure why I find it strange that they died on days of the month so close together, but I do. It seems like it was planned, although I am not sure how.
I think I do this not just for them or for my parents, mostly my mom who still starts with “my mom and I never got along” or comments about her retarded sister. My dad certainly does not care, and when I tell him I was there I can hear him thinking that I just told him I ate my own toes today. I do it for me. My family is small, we do not have a huge connection to the past or to the people. On my dad’s side, there is little. His dad died when I was 3, his mom, came around, but frankly never liked us until we were older and like a divorced dad who disappears, she sort of was always in the background. But Nana and Poppa were special.
Poppa was a lawyer that I became years later, I went to the same school. His picture from I think 1932 was on the wall, his graduating class. I showed classmates it and we are twins. He was always hard, but loved all of us and we knew that. Law was maybe always in my blood but when I saw that picture the first time, I felt close, that this was family that I was in some sense carrying on a tradition. Nana stayed at home, much with the aforementioned retarded sister. Nana loved us, she and my mom, maybe not, but it was the first time I saw the true love of a grandmother, until I saw it then with my own parents, but Nana would have done and did anything for us.
They were our grandparents. It has been now 13 years since Nana died and again 22 since Poppa died, too young of cancer at 71. For years their deaths were moments not memories. Only recently have I started going each year. My most prevalent memory of Nana dying was that I was halfway to Springsteen in Cleveland. Of Poppa my mom coming in my room and telling me at I think 6 am. But things have changed now, their lives and passings have taken on meanings I could not have expected, and seeing them at the cemetery every year brings thoughts and feelings that change me.
I talk to them. I tell them about my life, my failings and my successes. I tell them how I feel, honestly, which few get from me. Mostly I tell them what they have missed. I know that they would not live to be 112 or anything, but I like telling them that I am went to law school and am doing well, with two amazing kids, and that I think I’m a good dad. I have few friends but good ones. I have chosen well with women even if they have not all worked out, I have no regrets and have made mistakes and failings with people and things, some hopes, and of course some regrets but isn’t that life? We learn I tell them things that are hard and things that are easy. I tell them my hopes, my dreams, my disappointments. They don’t talk back, they don’t criticize and they don’t comment. I sit in the sun and think about where I am, where I am going and what I have and don’t.
Which brings me to my point of this small story. My grandparents even in their oddities, failings and successes, have always loved me unconditionally, even in death. I can tell them anything, I can sit there as I did today and smile and cry, and laugh, with only some workers milling about. I can tell them anything and I do. We laugh and cry together, and they smile when I show them my kids’ pictures. At least I know they are. I say a prayer because we are jewish, and leave. Knowing that the greatest gift they could have given me is to be there, both in death and in life and to be there for me tough I assume they do not even know they are. So for that, I thank them both and always will.
Grandparent. Thank you for everything you still give