It all really hit me when I was writing the section about my grandfather’s death. I was in a zone, furiously typing, both from my memory of the events and the memories of my family members that I interviewed. I tried to stay locked in, to keep typing, to keep putting text on the screen and get the thoughts out of my head and onto the computer. But I couldn’t. Years later, recalling all of it, I found myself emotional.
Sitting in a Starbucks in New York City isn’t the best place to be re-confronted with those memories. I can vividly remember holding my mom as she cried. I will never forget it for as long as I live. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do in my brief life. I will never know how this truly affected my mom, and the rest of my family, but I do know how it affected me.
Recently, at the wake for Marion’s mother, there were so many photos of my grandfather, and I’m in many of them. It’s weird seeing yourself as a kid, knowing what you know now. With his life cut so short, is there more I could have done while he was still alive? I know these are questions that don’t have answers, but they flash through my mind regardless. I just can’t help it.
I’m very much part of the story I just told and I tried my best to divorce myself from it, ever so slightly, to get the real scope of what happened into text without interjecting my feelings. It was not easy.
In this day of Facebook statuses, tweets, photos and video sharing sites, it’s easy for me to share my feelings on anything, at anytime. But recalling old memories… There’s no social network for that.
It’s why I think this story was so important and needed to be told.
It’s easy for all of us in the family to keep things bottled up, but it’s better — I think — to get everything out, even if it does mean reliving some awful memories. We have to sift through those to get to the important stuff… the happy stuff… the good memories… Those are the ones we need to cherish, not the ones when Grandpa was ripped from our lives.
We need to re-live it now, so we never have to re-live it again. So we did. So I did. And that’s the story you just read.
It was the story of my grandfather. Of his life, and his death, and how he impacted our hearts and left a hole there when he was gone. He was something special, larger that life. He wasn’t always there, or the perfect father, brother or husband, but everyone loved him. Every one.
And going back through stories — some tall tales, others grounded in reality — with my family was wonderful. I now know my grandfather better than I ever have. I know him not only as my grandpa, but as a man, through and through. From birth through death, and beyond.
I’m happy I know this. I’m happy we did this, as a family. I hope they appreciate what it is and who he was even more now.
We miss him. I miss him.
We’ll always have this.