Old Jewish Cemetery, Vienna

Dear Grandpa,

You died about 4.5 years ago and much has happened since then. I don’t think that I have told you about all of it. In fact I am sure that I never told you that they fired me the day of your funeral. Didn’t tell you about the text messages and emails that they sent me during the funeral asking me to call in. My phone was off so I didn’t get them during the service. It was only when I got back to mom and dads that I discovered them. They called me again and told me that they they were sorry that you had died and that I shouldn’t come in the next day.

I haven’t aired this sort of dirty laundry here, at least not this story. I haven’t shared it for a variety of reasons but for some reason today feels like an appropriate time to share some of it.  I took the call in the car and said what I had to say. Then I walked into the house and looked at my father. He has your blue eyes you know. I didn’t say anything about it. I didn’t mention it because it wasn’t that important. He had lost his father. Just a short time earlier we had stood graveside and he had told us about how you were his hero and how much he would miss you.

How could I tell him. I know my father and I knew that he would try to comfort me. I knew that he would say fuck ’em and tell me that I was better off.  All true and all accurate. I had been trying to get out of there so they made it easier. But the moment wasn’t about me. It was about my father. Grandma was long since gone and so was Uncle Jimmy. Once you died that meant that dad was an orphan, albeit a 60 something year old orphan, but an orphan nonetheless. I didn’t know how he would feel. I mean I knew that he would miss you terribly but I didn’t know if it would be made worse by not having Uncle Jimmy around. There are things that siblings understand about parents that no one else can get, not even a spouse.

So I walked inside, picked up my daughter and hugged her tight. Her brother came over and grabbed my hand and tugged on it. It seemed surreal, you were gone, the construction on the house wasn’t close to being completed and I had two small children. I did my best to hold a poker face, but you know that it is not something that I am very good at it. You and dad were/are card players. Maybe it is more accurate to say that dad recognized my tell and asked me to tell him what happened. Really, I shouldn’t be surprised that he knew that there was something more. How many times did the three of us sit together communicating in silence.

Anyway, I told him what happened and got the expected response from him. I made a point of shifting the conversation quickly. I didn’t want to focus on me. I was furious about it. Even though it was demonstrative of the character of the people I had been working for, it wasn’t right. But there is a time and place for those things and that was neither.

I remember walking to the bathroom next to my old bedroom. Our picture was hanging on the wall. It is the one of you, dad, your father and myself. I am about 18 months or so in it. I remember staring at it and thinking about how young you looked in it because you were. I was 37 when you died and you were about 92. So in that picture you weren’t even 60. Can’t tell you if you had gone gray yet because the picture is in Black and White. 😉

Your great granddaughter talks about you relatively often. She likes to pretend that she is you. She hikes up her pants and and acts silly. It is bittersweet to me because she doesn’t remember you. Sure, she knows who you were and she recognizes your face in pictures but she doesn’t know the grandfather that I remember. When I coach her soccer team and see my folks on the sidelines it reminds me of you and it makes me smile because she is building the same sort of relationship that we had. But I am selfish and I want more time with my grandfather.

I am selfish because I got a small taste of getting to know you as a man and not a boy. I miss your stories. We can’t tell them as well as you could. I miss sharing secrets with you. Sure, whenever I come to visit you I make a point of telling you one or two, but it is not the same as having you sit across from me. You never knew about this blog but you would have enjoyed it. You always enjoyed my writing and most of the time I enjoyed sharing it with you. I qualified that because when I was younger it was harder doing that.

Blame it on youth. You always said that you couldn’t screw an old head on young shoulders and you were right. Life changes us, or should I say life experiences change us. I have written a bunch of posts about you. There are keywords in them that trigger memories for me. And I share those memories with your great grandchildren. They are all getting so big. I look at my nieces and nephews and my kids and I am amazed. You would be proud of them all.

I am not who I was when you died. Too much has happened but that is not necessarily a bad thing. Changes come and we do our best to roll with them. Just know that you are missed and loved. And when I punch out a boy or two for trying to date your great granddaughter I’ll tell them that you helped teach me how to throw a punch. Something tells me that would make you smile. I love you grandpa, got to run now and play dad for a while.

This was part of  The Red Dress Club Memoir Prompt.

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