Hero in everything

this is a memoir about when my grandfather died and how i personaly dealt with his death




There will always be a person in a life that makes all the difference.  That person could be a thousand miles away, or even right down the street.  Sometimes you won’t even meet them.  I knew one person from birth, the only man who could ever have all of my trust, my grandpa.  He will always be my eternal hero.

  It was the day of play tryouts, and I was great.  I was sixteen, young, excited, and hopeful of making the fall play.  My audition felt amazing.  For the first time I really felt I would get in.  My mother came and picked me up afterwards.  Then as we crossed the Portland Bridge, my mom told me, “, Tiffany your grandpa died.”

My world ended.

She proceeded with her pointless words, “I felt it would be best to leave you in school because of the play--” Anything about the play no longer really mattered.  I was lost in my head.  I was alone.  I wanted to reply to my mother.  I wanted to yell and make it all go away, but my mouth seemed sewn shut.

The next morning we, my mom and I, were packed and ready to leave for Minnesota.  My mom’s birth place and the place that held my grandpa’s last breath, that’s were we where headed.  I was struggling already with secret depression, the kind that comes when it pleases, for no reason, and only one person truly knew about it.  That one person was Reid.  He was my knight and though we weren’t together anymore I knew he would always be there.  He was the only one who knew about the dark place I was going in real life. 

The entire way there I had to think of something other than our destination.  So I filled our trip with Backstreet Boys and Spice Girls. Although my mind tried to stay home it finally caught up, and we pulled into the driveway of my grandfather’s friend’s driveway.  We all wondered if (if they were more than just friends emotionally), but no one asked.  That’s when it hit me; it had been almost four years since I had seen my hero.  However, I remembered every noise and voice he had.  I remembered the shake in his hands from the strokes years ago.  I thought of the hunch in his back and the Styrofoam cereal he ate, I remembered all that I could; honestly, I still do remember. 

The first day went okay.  I pretended to ignore my aunt Cindy and her stuck up, anorexic-looking children’s comments that mocked my grandpa.  Then my mom and I went towards the house we would be staying at for a few days.  Before I went to bed, I called Reid.  I cried, and he listened.  I was quiet, and he listened.   I died, and he understood.  I knew he was my last grip, no, my only grip on reality, and the only one I would let help me with my grandpa’s death. As I lay on the warm hood of the car staring at the stars I knew I was lucky to have him as a friend. 

The second day I was to meet my family. Wait, family?  I didn’t know them and I had no intention of knowing more about them than their names, if even that.  As I sat around a table with people I didn’t know, I became bitter.  My hero was dead and these people insisted on gossiping about him, making fun of things I remembered so tenderly.  Why were these gossiping fools alive?  The “children” and “grandchildren” of a great man laughed at that same man who could no longer defend himself.  Their laughter enveloped me taking me deep into a cruel, miserable place.

That’s when my uncle Roy made a mistake.  “I don’t believe he deserves a eulogy.  Let’s face it he wasn’t a very good father,” was the blasphemy that dripped from his ugly lips.

I snapped. “My grandfather was and is a great man.  He was a great grandfather and you should be ashamed of yourself!” Then I blacked out, but I knew I was still yelling.  I was yelling at all of them, all but my mom of course.  I had to let them know how wrong they were.  In the middle of this refined restaurant I humiliated them, and it gave me joy.

Finally, I heard my mom’s voice, “Tiffany calm down.”  Then I hurriedly turned and walked out the door.  I began to lament for all the ignorance inside that place. I sobbed and released all of the sorrow I could.  I was about to lose my grasp of the world, so I called Reid. I began to rant about how rude these people who claimed to be my family were.  And once again I cried and he listened. 

I kept my distance from the ignorant strangers.  I despised them and I knew if I got close I would blow once again.  I loathed them and I wanted to go home.  I needed the comfort of being alone.  I needed solitude and I needed my best friend.  Later they realized I was serious about what I said, and asked me to give the eulogy.  I accepted, since I was the only one, apparently, who cared. 

          I almost stayed in the car during the visitation.  I was so afraid to see my grandpa lying as desolate and lifeless as the Dead Sea.  The thought made me sick, but I did what the family of a lost love one is expected to do.  I went into the room that held the body that was once my grandfather.  It wasn’t right being in a room with a body that didn’t even hold his blood anymore.  It wasn’t him, but it still had that connection.  I thought of him and all the pain he no longer had.  I realized how selfish I was and how much that didn’t bother me.  I wanted him to breath, to see his chest rise and fall, to hear those deep harsh breaths I remembered so clearly.  I knew they wouldn’t come.  After embalming there is no longer a chance of life.

          That’s when I knew I had to get out of there.  I craved isolation.  So I went for a “walk”.  I called Reid first but he wasn’t home, so I dialed my friend Becky’s number.  I was so grateful when she answered.  After I talked to her I was able to breathe again.  I sat on a curb on a street I didn’t know in a town I didn’t know.  Yet I was only lost in my own head. Just the place I wanted to be.    I was myself.  Alone, calm, finally at peace. 

          Finally the day of the funeral arrived.  My nauseating uncle said a few words, and then the pastor said a few more.  My mom sang a song and cried.   Then it was my turn.  I stood shaking in front of his friends and family.  I began to wonder how much he had changed in the four years we had been separated, but this was it. I looked down at my tear smudged paper and began. 

“My grandfather, I’m sure, loved every one of you.”  Pause.  Don’t cry.  “He may have never said it, but if you have ever been told with a shaking fist, “Do you want a knuckle sandwich?” he loved you.” The audience laughed. He was the same.  Good, keep going.  “I remember when I was little and we were up here, I’d wait to hear him in the morning.  Then I’d just sit there and watch him eat breakfast.  Every morning it was puffed wheat, toast, and pineapple juice.  It seems so silly now that I remembered that but it will stay with me forever.  He always gave the best hugs.  He’d hold tight, yet it was gentle at the same time.”  Imagine.  Inhale.  Exhale.  Go.

“His stories were always amazing.  Each time they got better.  More far-fetched and exaggerated, but you just wanted to believe.”  Inhale.  “I know I always wanted to.  We all need heroes and grandpa was definitely mine.  He loved his church.  He was always so proud of it.  He was proud of his faith, too.  He was a very bold man.  You knew if he didn’t like something.  But maybe there aren’t enough people like that.  Grandpa was a very strong man and he made it through a lot--the Great Depression, World War II, kids, grandchildren, and the loss of his wife.  He’s with her now, my grandpa, and I’m sure he’s finally happy.”  Exhale. 

Later on a woman came up to me and with a soft remembering voice let me know “Your grandpa talked about you a lot.”  There were others who said the same thing.  My hero loved me, and thought of me, that made things easier.  Reality was there, and for once it was nice.  One of the hardest weeks of my life had given me hope.  It’s still hard to think of, even now, as I write this, it hurt.  I do know I have a hero somewhere in the heavens looking down on me.  I also know I have a hero on earth, and each time I “die” he’ll be there.

The End

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