My childhood memories of my grandfather always include my grandmother as well. More specifically, they include my grandmother screaming and cursing at him, and him laughing and winking in reply. My grandmother’s favorite phrase seemed to be “Goddamnit, Joseph”, and she’d say it so often you could almost be convinced that was his full name. One time, they baby-sat my siblings and I overnight. My grandmother tried to use my parents jacuzzi bathtub, but she hit the wrong button. The next thing I heard was her howling. The jets were hitting her full force, splashing water all over the bathroom tiles. In her terror, she called for Grandpa in the only way she knew how – “Goddamnit Joseph!”
When she died, I truly believe a part of him died, too. Even until recently, he would be brought to tears talking about her. When he felt up to it, he would bring out their wedding album and regale me with tales of how he proposed (over the phone during the war) and how she did a shot of alcohol in front of her father at their wedding (both he and her father were apparently stunned speechless). I love their wedding photos because I can see my mother and her siblings in their faces. I can also see the love my grandfather had for her. His eyes radiated with it, his smile stretching from one big ear to the other.
As I got older, my relationship with my grandfather became more special. What started as a grandfather – granddaughter situation morphed into one of friendship. He had so many amazing and unique personality traits that everyone who knew him is so familiar with.
Even through his tears when talking about my grandmother, we spent the majority of our time together laughing. He was a trickster and loved a good joke. For example, he managed to convince my best friend Ashley that he was actually the Wendy’s spokesperson, Dave. I thought he might go so far as to actually make her a cheeseburger. 😆
He had a sweet tooth and loved to eat. Very recently, I bribed him with the promise of Swiss chocolate so he would be more cognizant of his appreciation for the help my mother and her sisters were providing. Wouldn’t you know it, but soon after making our deal, my mother told me how weird it was that Grandpa was telling her “I love you” all the time in his cheeky sweet voice. He earned every one of those 10 Swiss chocolate bars.
He knew how to efficiently and effectively manage an operation. By that I mean, he knew how to pinch pennies and get his grandkids to do stuff for him, such as dusting behind the refrigerator – guilty.
He loved hearing a good story, and would repeat the best ones with his circle of friends. His phone was always ringing, and he was constantly out and about. He had so many friends to share these stories with.
When I moved to Switzerland, the stories I shared morphed into stories of my travels. Knowing he didn’t have internet, I would send him postcards from every place I visited as a way for him to see what I was seeing. My sending him postcards became our “thing”. He saved every one of them and when I would call, we’d talk about those trips. He seemed so proud of me and would always say “you’re doing all right, kid”.
After I gave birth to my daughter, I wrote about how the part of the brain that is responsible for language and logic is different from the part of the brain that controls emotions. That is why it is so difficult to put into the words the magic of child-birth. Thank God my small daughter got to meet Grandpa, but with his death, I feel the same way.
My brain says his passing is what is best for him. He is at peace. He is no longer in pain. He is reunited with the lady who loved him enough to dub him “Goddamnit Joseph.” His death is not a tragedy, either. He lived 88 healthy years, filled with lots of family, friends and 5 great-grandchildren. In his final moments, he was comfortable and surrounded by family, his hand held as he slowly slipped away. But my emotions say his passing is not what is best for me. The logical part of my brain is at peace, but the emotional part is a wreck. My heart is destroyed and my fingers ache that I will never again get to write him another postcard.
My grandfather was an incredible man.
He was independent and stubborn as hell.
He had a million friends and his phone was always ringing. I loved getting his answering machine because of how it ended – “I hope you’re beautiful”.
He could eat anyone under the table.
His mischievous wink always got a smile out of you.
He loved his family and especially his wife.
He was my grandfather but he was also my friend.
Until we meet again Grandpa, I have one more postcard for you:
Now you’re the one traveling to a place I have never been. How was the flight? I’m sure Heaven is as beautiful and wonderful as I have dreamed. How is Grandma? I have some guesses as to what she said when you saw you again 😉 ! Can you curse in Heaven? Give her a hug for me, and I will see you soon. I love you so much. And Grandpa, you’re all right.”