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.

(Visited 768 times, 1 visits today)


  1. TheJackB August 5, 2011 at 8:18 am

    @vboersma19 Hi Valerie. Thank you for visiting. Grandparents are very special people and I get it. One of the great pleasures of my life was the opportunity to get to know my grandparents as an adult.

  2. TheJackB August 5, 2011 at 8:12 am

    @therebelchick It is ok. We only miss those who really meant something to us.

  3. vboersma19 August 5, 2011 at 8:08 am

    This is beautiful! I miss my grandparents terribly. Now that I’m an adult, I need them almost as much or more than when I was little.

    Wonderful writing-your grandpa would be proud!

    Valerie @ For the Love of Pete, stopping by from TRDC

  4. vboersma19 August 5, 2011 at 8:06 am

    This is beautiful! I miss my grandparents terribly. Now that I’m an adult, I need them almost as much or more than when I was little.

    Wonderful writing-your grandpa would be proud.

  5. carrie.rogozinski August 5, 2011 at 5:11 am

    This is a beautiful letter to your Grandfather. He sounds like a wonderful man.

  6. therebelchick August 5, 2011 at 3:42 am

    Aw, honey, that just breaks my heart.

  7. CDG February 23, 2011 at 10:17 am

    I never knew either of my grandfathers. I am told I’m a lot like both of them.
    I envy you the connection you had, even while I’m sorry for what was obviously a very painful loss.

  8. Lydia February 22, 2011 at 10:26 pm

    I love that you shared these memories with your children and their children and writing about them will be such a gift for them too. And for us, thank you for sharing this.

  9. Karen Peterson February 22, 2011 at 9:41 pm

    It’s funny how there are so many things we think we can’t tell people, even after they’ve gone.

    I’m sure you ARE a different person now than you were four and a half years ago, but I bet your grandfather is still proud of you.

    • Jack February 22, 2011 at 10:02 pm


      I had no bigger cheerleader than my grandfather. I could do no wrong in his eyes. Now my father has taken on the mantle and says the same thing about his grandchildren. The circle keeps on going.

  10. Katie February 22, 2011 at 7:02 pm

    Damn Jack. You look so good when you throw on that red dress.

    seriously, though…this made me think of my husband. He lost his dad almost 6 years ago–the summer we were married. He never med his grandbabies. And we lost my husband’s (paternal) grandpa on Christmas this year. My son and my husband are growing up with giant holes in what should be there.

    you wrote so beautifully here…you showed your love, your comfort, and your sadness…all rolled together.

    • Jack February 22, 2011 at 10:00 pm

      Hi Katie,

      Why doesn’t anyone ever tell us that it is drafty in these things. I have wind blowing up places it is not meant to be. 😉

      It is hard to have those holes. Even though we know that people won’t be around forever sometimes we don’t believe that somehow they’ll manage to stick around.

  11. Dafeenah February 22, 2011 at 4:32 pm

    Amazing story. Thank you for sharing. When you have grandparents like that, the world is different once they are no longer in it.

  12. Brooke February 22, 2011 at 2:11 pm

    My great-grandmother died before I had a memory of her, and my grandmother died before my son could truly know her. It’s strange to think about because, if we are lucky, we have memories of these people that we cannot share with our children even though we would have wanted them to know their ancestors. Thanks for sharing your story.

    • Jack February 22, 2011 at 9:45 pm

      One of my wishes for the blog is that it helps provide a connection for my children and whomever comes after. Maybe 100 years from now some great great great grandchild will read my words and see something that they can relate to.

  13. Mad Woman behind the Blog February 22, 2011 at 1:48 pm

    You were such a generous man, to give this day to your dad and to shrug off any attention brought to you. So often when its family, we only think of ourselves and our loss rather than the loss for those around us.
    I too wish my grandparents could see the woman I’ve become and know their great grandchildren. I too hope my children know their grandparents as I did mine.
    Thank you for taking me back to them today.

    • Jack February 22, 2011 at 9:43 pm

      Sometimes I look back at that day as a sign of how far I have come. I understand what you are saying about wishing your grandparents could see the woman you have become. Even though my grandparents got to see a lot, I would have liked to have shown them more.

  14. Kate Hopper February 22, 2011 at 12:43 pm

    Lovely post, Jack, and what a wonderful tribute not only to grandfather, but to your father. I can feel the sense of closeness between all three of you. Wonderful writing!

  15. Aimee Davis February 22, 2011 at 12:43 pm

    I’m not a cryin’ kind of girl, but I teared up a bit, I will admit. Such a relatable story, and you tell it perfectly- the simplicity of a boy, the strength of a man, and wisdom of a father. Stories like this give me the courage to tell my own. Thank you.

  16. ChopperPapa February 22, 2011 at 10:45 am

    I had both of my grandfathers and grandmothers until I was 33 years old. I have no regrets, I was able to spend time with them and do things. Part of who I am is because of them. I was the oldest grandson I got to give them their nicknames…..

    I’ll always remember Gocky and PawPaw.

  17. Cheryl February 22, 2011 at 10:29 am

    This made me really sad. My grandfather died when I was pregnant with my first. And my father died before my third was born. So we don’t have that connection with that other generation. My kids don’t have a grandfather (we have no contact with my husband’s father, who lives in Europe). It’s very sad. What a gift you had so much time with yours.

    • Jack February 22, 2011 at 9:36 pm

      I am very sorry for that. I know how lucky I am. Part of the reason I write about him is to try and secure the memories in a way that won’t allow me to forget.

  18. Nichole February 22, 2011 at 9:31 am

    Such a powerful post.

    What I love about your writing is the way you recognize and highlight the dynamics of all of the unique relationships that exist in a family. You explore their nuances and implications beautifully.

    This line is perfection, “How many times did the three of us sit together communicating in silence.”

    Gorgeous writing … so powerful and rich.

    • Jack February 22, 2011 at 9:32 pm

      Hi Nichole,

      One of the benefits of having had my grandfather around for so many years was learning how to communicate in silence. He was a great story teller and could light up a room but he could also be quiet. As I grew older I learned that some times the silence said more than words could.

      The blog has been a great tool for exploring so many things.

  19. Amy Hillis February 21, 2011 at 10:13 pm

    My first time stopping by and I love that you got to know your Grandfather as an adult yourself. And your kids may not ‘know’ their Great-Grandpa directly – but they’ll always carry him indirectly through you and that’s an amazing gift to give your children. Lovely post, thank you for sharing.

  20. PJ Mullen February 21, 2011 at 9:44 pm

    Passing off memories and lessons to your children from people who have been important in your life is paramount. It took my grandfather’s passing seven years ago for me to finally get my act together. I wish he could have met my wife and been around to see his great grandchildren. He was a good man who taught me a lot. Sounds like our grandfathers were cut from the same cloth. Well done, Jack.

  21. Erica M February 21, 2011 at 8:51 pm

    I love this post. It’s the best I’ve read from you. So very natural and unstilted. You should write out your deepest feelings more often. Don’t think of it as dirty laundry. It’s cathartic and authentic.

  22. Jessica February 21, 2011 at 8:33 pm

    Love this, wrote about my grandpa too. I could feel the amazing relationship the two of you had through every word. Well done.

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

You may also like