Ghosts of Octobers Past: The trees are dying and so are you. We want to know what you plan to do with your remaining years. In the alternate, tell us about your favourite dead relative.
In college, I took a creative writing class to meet my freshman writing requirement. In the class, the instructor told us that college students write about three things, when mining their lives for experiences to retell: relationships, blackouts, and grandparents.
Grandparents. How about that.
I remember my Grandma Juaine’s dying words to me, which were “You find your man and hold onto him” and a beseeching that I return to the Catholic Church. As my parents rebelled and baptized us as Episcopalians and then decided to join-up with the Lutheran (ELCA) church when I was in the seventh grade (eighth?) this was the culmination of a lifelong spiritual battle for my soul. I will confess, I was only moderately successful in these endeavors. I did hold onto my man when I found him but instead of returning to The Church I became Jewish.
My Grandma Boots died of Alzheimer’s and a host of other medical complications and hers was a longer, slower goodbye over the course of 80 days of hospice. There were no last wishes. Just Dr. Peppers and Cheetos consumed en masse from the nursing home vending machine as a sort of maudlin post-Confirmation party of sorts (hand to God, I got Confirmed the night before my grandmother died) while we prayed Our Fathers around her bedside.
While I had the chance to get to know my grandmothers, into the beginning of high school and the beginning of college, it is my grandfathers that I wish I could have known more. You see, when I married Marcus, I re-added three grandparents to my tally including two grandfathers. Over the last eight or nine years I have gotten to love them and be loved by them. We have shared stories and holidays and firsts.
Having lost Papa when I was barely a toddler and Grandpa at the start of third grade, I can only guess how I would have felt about them as an adult. The conversations we would have shared, the things they would have done that would have made us crazy. What traditions they would have been adamant about upholding. How they would have loved Critter. How many more times I would have gone fishing with Grandpa. What types of spiffy outfits, my jeans-despising, depression-era, subsistence-hunting Papa would have continued to don.
I know how big they loved me. I know how big they still do. It is the little, seemingly inconsequential things that when viewed as a whole are what I will always wonder about.