This is a hard time of year for a lot of people. It’s the time when you miss loved ones who have passed the most. I have several friends who have passed away within the 2 weeks around Christmas, so it’s also their death-iversary. And death is hard to cope with, whether you’re the one who’s dying or the one left behind. But today I give you this little present from my grandfather, who died about 15 years ago:
When he was dying from lung and liver cancer, and hospice had been called in, the family gathered in Chicago to be there with him. Now, let it be known that my grandfather was kind of a prankster, and was not going to pass up the chance to make the most of having everyone around him. One evening, he was sitting in his favorite chair with my cousin on the foot stool in front of him. Gramps was quiet and closed his eyes, then gave a huge exhale and became silent. My cousin thought, “Wow, I just witnessed my grandfather passing away,” and started to tear up. Just then, my grandfather opened his eyes and winked and said, “You know, it’s just not that easy to die.”
Later, when he was on his deathbed, my mom and aunt were gathered by the bed, and Gramps said, “Now take care of your mother,” to which they replied, “We will, Dad.” Then he said, “And take care of each other,” to which they agreed that they would. And then he said, “And take care of my boat,” at which point they looked at each other, thinking of the little rowboat he had had and sold many years before, shrugged and said, “We will, Dad.” Then he opened his eyes with a twinkle and said matter-of-factly, “I don’t have a boat!”
When he actually passed away, the pastor came to my grandparent’s home to talk about the service. My family has a tradition at gatherings (my fingers just tried to type it as “gagtherings” which is only sort of how I view them – just kidding, Family, I love you) of trying to clip wooden clothespins to each others’ backs secretly. If you can do one, then you try to clip another to that one, and another, forming a tail. No one is safe and any item of clothing, hair, or skin is fair game. When the pastor got up to leave, I noticed that she had been tagged. Not sure who did it, but I will love them forever for that.
When my parents and I arrived at the church early, they were just bringing in the casket. My grandfather was a tiny man, and when they opened the casket up, he had shifted down to the bottom, so they grabbed him by the lapels and yanked him back up to the pillow. Then they took the tissue off his face that I guess was there to keep the makeup from getting on the inside of the casket lid. I couldn’t hold the snort in and my parents and I collapsed into a fit of giggles, thankful that my grandmother had not been there to see that. It took all of my self control not to pin a clothespin to his nose before the viewing. After we were all seated, the bagpipes started up, and the opening bleats echoing through the church damn near killed me. I started laughing and had to pretend it was actually crying, which it eventually became once they stopped and the service started. But after it was all over, I silently thanked Gramps for providing so much laughter on such a solemn occasion.
When you think about the people you’ve lost, often the reason we miss them so much is because they made us laugh. So at this time of year when you miss them so much you think your heart might shatter, look for the laughter and Saran wrap your heart in that shit.
All my pics of Gramps are in storage except this one with his brother. This was before I knew him. Go figure.