It is not my intent to make this blog too personal, but grant me this deviance.
So my grandfather died this morning. No 3am phone call. 8:30am phone call. So I got woken up to hear that news. Great. So as I sit here and process that information, what do I feel? Relief? I mean he was pretty old, and had been rather sick lately. Guilt? Maybe I should have called him that one last time? Told him I loved him? I’d like to think I prepared myself for this as much as I possibly can, and yet I still feel bad. I’m not surprised mind you, it would be foolish of me to think that the passing of the most powerful male figure in my life would not cause me to feel anything, regardless of how much I prepared for it.
Death is a funny thing, we all know it will eventually come for us and yet a good deal of people just up and ignore it. Maybe in the hope that it will eventually go away? Self-delusion is a powerful tool, but in the end it just harms more than it helps(I think, at least). Over the years I’ve tried to get better at facing death head on, be real about whats happening, accept the feelings as they come rather than try to paint over them with a variety of options. As complicated as divisions between people become, I’ve always found it remarkable how the root cause can be simple misunderstandings or miscommunications. Seemingly small things that, because of emotion, fester into these tangled masses that no one recognizes. And nothing brings out emotion like a death… However, I’m not going to spend all this time waxing philosophical. I’m going to talk about my grandfather, though there will most likely still be some waxing.
When I think of my grandfather, I think of this huge, larger than life individual. When I was a kid, I was so small and he was so…well, big. I used to think that I was a small child. Now I’m of the viewpoint that I was only small relative to those around me. You see, I started school 2 years early.(The story behind that is one for another time.) At that time in my life my father wasn’t around a lot, and my grandfather was the one that I looked to often. He’s the person that I drew most of my ideals on what it meant to be a man and many of those I carry with me to this day.
A turning point in any child’s life is the day they realize their parents aren’t perfect. With my grandfather, I didn’t realize when that day was, even more to the point I didn’t care. I didn’t care what other folks parents’ had done are what they had done. He was mine, and that was all that I cared about. As I type this, I realize that I have a mess of cousins that would simultaneously agree and disagree with me on that point. I also realize that the grandfather I know, may not have been the same father my mother and uncles knew, the same husband my grandmother knew, maybe not even the same grandfather my cousins know. He wasn’t perfect, a fact that was made even more apparent when some of his wilder stories began to trickle to my ears as I got a little older. Even after hearing some of those stories, it didn’t change my impresssion of the man one bit.
As I previously stated, I was smaller and younger than everybody at school, and looked it to boot. Solid attachments at school were a hard thing to come by for me, and my family stability at home was always a factor for my well being. And my grandfather was always this rock. When I was younger it really annoyed me. If I was having some trouble with kids in the neighborhood, he would rarely get involved. Truthfully, if he got anywhere near it, it had to be pretty serious. But he always listened. He was always patient, a trait I later learned was unique to me. Actually Grandpa had quite a temper, but I don’t ever remember him ever yelling at me. And there were times I know I deserved it, maybe even expected it. It never came. Just the same constant voice. It wasn’t like he had to raise it anyway.
I think my grandfather was the first person to pick up on my technical savvy. I’d like to think I was born to be an engineer, and when I was little I was constantly taking stuff apart…and putting it back together. Most of the time it was already broken…but a couple of times it wasn’t. The first thing I ever remember fixing was the remote control for the TV set. I was young too, single digits. He had spilled soda on it and it quit working, and was ready to call it gone. I asked him, practically begged him if he would let me try and fix it. Now under most circumstances, my grandfather would not give you an outright no. He would say it’s a waste of time, it couldn’t be done, something like that. For whatever reason, that time he decided to relent and probably figured I’d get tired of it eventually. I pulled out his tool set opened it up, cleaned it off, and put it back together-and it worked! He was so surprised. I was just happy to prove an adult wrong, which apparently I had a taste for when I was younger.
Little did I know what future work I had laid out for myself. It quickly changed from me asking him could I fix things, to him asking me to fix things. When I got older and went away to school, that changed into things waiting on me at home to be fixed whenever I made it home. I really enjoyed being helpful to him. And it just wasn’t fixing stuff. I helped do all sorts of stuff around the house as well. He taught me how mow the grass, trim the bushes, all sorts of repairs around the house. As I got older(as did he) and his eyes got worse, I was often his hands for him. He’d say what needed to be done and I did it. There would be this twinge of concern on his face and in his voice, fearful that I would hurt myself and me charging ahead full speed. I still have all my fingers so I guess we made out okay.
Maybe I could describe my grandfather as an old-school hacker. I mean he got the job done! It may not have been pretty, or elegant, but at the essence that’s what hacking is. Getting the job done with out regard to prior skill or talent. Haha, my grandfather the hacker, maybe that’s where I get it from.
My grandfather was always insecure about his intelligence, he only finished up to the 6th grade. Make no mistake though, my grandfather was an intelligent man! He was very adept as reading social situations, and people. He just knew how to get stuff done, he paid his bills, took care of the house, let me “borrow” money. I never thought he should feel that self-conscious given what he accomplished. I think it was part him flying under the radar, and part him being old and no one around having the stripes to call him on his stubborness. One of the perks, I suppose.
At the end of it all, I’d be foolish to believe that this rose-colored view of my grandfather is the sum of the whole man. He may have lived a hundred lives before I was born, and now on to another one since he has departed. What has been left are a number of memories that are very important to me. Slightly delusional? Maybe? But I’m okay with that. Earlier I said that self-delusion is a bad thing. I’d like to amend that slightly. I think delusion becomes dangerous when it interferes with your ability to process reasonable or conflicting information. When you’re so attached to the image, the veneer, that you hold it beyond reproach. That’s a problem. The grandfather I knew? That was real, maybe not the whole story…but I’ll still hold on to that piece. I suppose that’s not exactly a delusion then, but don’t know what to call it. I like the idea better of celebrating what he taught me rather than cry that he’s gone. Though I still will cry a little.