St Patrick’s Day, 2011
I don’t know what to say about my grandfather. Starting with “he died last night” seems so obvious, so “well, duh – you titled it a memorial post, so we kind of figured that.” But how else do you start a post where you’re going to pour your heart, your pain, out into words so you can start dealing with it? How else should I start to subject you, my unsuspecting readers, to a surprising level of anguish that I’m feeling? Grandpa died. He was the grandparent I was the closest to, and now he’s gone. Sure, I’d said my goodbyes years ago, before the dementia took him away while leaving his body behind. But somehow every time I tell myself this, it rings hollow. Because he’s still gone, and before, somehow, he wasn’t.
Grandpa died on St. Patty’s day too. He liked his corned beef and cabbage, and so do I. It’s one of the things we had in common. It’s the only beef meal I look forward to every year, and this year it’s spoiled. Yeah, the crockpot ruined it before my emotions could, but it would never have tasted right regardless, because my grandfather is dead.
Grandpa liked his highballs. Jack Daniels Black Label and ginger ale, over ice. I bought the first bottle of JD I think I’ve ever bought a few days ago, and today on the way home I bought the ginger ale. I had a highball tonight after having a beer, and it tasted just as I remembered. Sweet, cold, with a kick that could put you under the table if you drank too many, too fast. But even as I drank it to honor my grandpa’s memory, it too tasted wrong, because my grandpa is dead.
Just yesterday I told my wife that I was going to set up a pretty still life – ginger ale, JD, a highball partly drank, a pack of cards, and a roll of quarters for the poker grandpa loved to play. You know, the kind of image that goes great with a proper obituary. Fuck that. Today such grand plans feel like so much empty bullshit, because my grandpa is dead.
Even writing this feels fake. Because the act of writing it distances me from the pain, lets me hold it up in my hand and examine it like some kind of fancy crystal ball filled with bile and lava. But that’s not what I want. I want my grandpa back, dammit! I want the man who I loved, who taught me to play poker, to make strong drinks so it was easier to win at poker, who I hooked through the thumb with a bluefish lure and who loved me anyway, who was a goddamn racist and who was ashamed of being half Irish, yet who loved me and protected me by never swearing in front of me or badmouthing anyone where I could hear it
None of that matters, because my grandpa is dead, and all I can think about is how much I’m going to miss him, warts and all. He meant more to me than I could have possibly imagined, and no matter how much I tell myself that he was gone years ago, it’s all bullshit.
My grandpa is gone – today. He died in his sleep last night, not last year. And my world will never be the same.