Saturday, January 8, 2011

My Grandpa

I do not want my Grandpa to die.

But he is in that horribly sad in-between place where going would be a definite mercy. I have been thinking about him all week, all day. For months.

He is lingering, it is truly sad - but even in that, I keep thinking about how much I still want him to know my daughter. Or better said, I want her to know him. He's such an amazing man, full of incredible history that she is only just now coming to appreciate and I want him to tell her his own stories, not me. There are so many stories even I haven't heard yet.

He was a pastor all his life, he worked in an army hospital, he picked cotton and slept in the back of a  truck with too many siblings making their way through the dust bowl - for decades he has served and cared for people. He loved everyone, he gave the coat off his back and his last dollar away countless times. He is such a softie and I think she'd find in him a kindred spirit and he'd teach her how to live it oh-so-beautifully.

He has twinkling blue eyes and rosy cheeks - that twinkle reminds me of my son, too. I want him to influence my little boy and be around to smuggle him secret chocolate chip cookies when Grandma says not to touch them yet, just like he did for me.

When he first got married, he confessed once to me, he used to sneak out of the house after breakfast "because I was still hungry after that one healthy bowl of oatmeal Grandma made for me." He went to a local diner for eggs, grits, ham, bacon, hot biscuits and mugs and mugs of coffee. Coffee. Always coffee. My Grandpa makes endless friends over coffee.

In fact, once, when we all lived in Amsterdam together, he came home wondering what all those leaves were on the menu where "those friendly kids run their coffee place." He had discovered a local marijuana shop. When he was told, he grinned, embarrassed, but said "they still had good coffee!"

My Grandpa came to visit us when we had our first baby and were exhausted, broke and overwhelmed. Despite being a life-long tee-totaler and conservative, my European-raised husband (who I forgot to warn) wanted to honour our guest by offering him a pour of a good red. I watched worried.

My Grandpa not only lifted his glass with us, he looked me in the eye and with his voice grown trembly, told me how proud he was of us as young parents. "You're going to be okay, honey," he said, "and just remember how proud this old man is of you."

The last time I saw him was a few years ago. We drove our children across the state where he had flown in to visit family. The kids were completely charmed by him - as was I, all over again.

He took us out for Mexican food - a family tradition - and told me again, this time over rootbeer and lemonade, how proud he was of me, of us, and how much he loved me. Only he cried - the first time I had ever seen him do that, his voice breaking and cracking my heart wide open with his.

He's such a good man. He's a gentleman.

He has had a hard few years and I have felt so far away from him and my Grandma. They are with family and are being doted on and cherished, but I miss him. We've talked a few times on the phone, each time his awareness and energy diminishing. I want so much for him to be out of pain, at peace. But at the same time I cannot imagine a world without my Grandpa. I don't want to just yet.

I don't want to at all.

My wish is that I could crawl up into his bed with him. I wish I could lay my head on his chest and whisper "Grandpa, I want you to know how proud I am of you. I always have been, I always will be. And I want you to know I will make sure my kids know what a wonderful man their Big Grandpa was . I will try to carry the things most important to you, to live them myself and pass them on."

I would hug him gently and say "And you know what, Grandpa? I made that wine-drinking grandson-in-law into a coffee drinker just for you." I would watch for any smile and kiss his fragile cheek and tell him again, "I can't stand that my kids are going to grow up without you. I can't stand that I am."

I am letting him go. I am. But I want to go on record saying a big part of my heart is broken right now. And I that love you, Grandpa.

I love you more than coffee and Mexican food and for ever.

The history of our grandparents is remembered not with rose petals but in the laughter and tears of their children and their children's children. It is into us that the lives of grandparents have gone. It is in us that their history becomes a future. 

 ~ Charles and Ann Morse


emily wierenga said...

oh misha.

my heart breaks...

what a good man. lifting that glass of red, and smiling over the leaves, and loving the world right again.

i hurt, and i don't even know him.

love you.

Anonymous said...

Heh, Misha. What a beautiful relationship you have with your Grandpa. I know the pain of having to let go... I'm praying for you over the next few days. I always yearn for my mom to still be here to love and know and influence my kids. The pain of separation is incredible and I am thankful for the hope I have that we will see each other once again.

Helena said...

Ah, this makes my heart creak. I am sorry, Misha. That you are having to let him go when you don't want to and can't.

My grandmother was one of my best friends…I still miss her… She holds a place in my heart the same way your grandpa does, and always will.

How beautiful your memories are, and how steady your love. Your children will pick this up and carry it forward. It is precious, and fragile, and Always.

svea said...

oh mish i am so sorry, my heart still aches for missing my grandpa and grandma who have only been gone three years. what a gift he is to you and your kids. your heart thoughts about him will live on in your sweet kids.

Jennifer Jo said...

I have tears in my eyes, reading this. Hugs to you, dear one.

Leslie said...

oh Mish,
one of the hardest moments of my adult life has been saying goodbye to my granddad....

I so shed tears over this post, and nodded along...

I hate that this is your season right now, and am praying for you all...

much love.

deb said...

Misha ,

tears for you.

what an incredible man . your words weave his soul into mine, leave a good good mark.

Jen said...

this of course made me cry because you have put in such beautiful writing the emotions that have been hovering in my heart for so many months. thank you.

Nikki said...

Crying over here. Praying for your Grandpa and Grandma, for your whole family, for you. It's so, so hard to know that people you love and respect are going to pass on and not be part of your kids' lives in the ways that you so desperately wish they could. It's so, so hard to be so far away and unable to comfort and speak and share your heart with him.

Thank You, Jesus, for all Your mercies, the sweet and the severe.

Kirsty Lee said...

so beautifully written..can feel your loving heart...made me think of my own, long passed grandparents, especially my dad's mum whom I was very close to.

Misha Leigh. said...

Thank you so much for all your kindnesses - I have been reading three books that have been helping me in this "in between place": Still Alice, Making Toast and These Strange Ashes. All from various angles of loss and grieving, but all helping me a great deal for different reasons.

Just as your comments did. Thank you so much.

Chelle said...

Oh the tears...this makes me think of our dear Grannie Annie and how I cannot even begin to dare imagine the world without her...what an absolutely gorgeous legacy your Grandpa has built as evidenced in the beauty of his children, thier children and their children's children... praying for you dearly...

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort,
who comforts us in all our affliction so that we will be able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God.

2 Cor. 1:3-4

My heart aches for you, precious friend.

tonia said...



Tilly said...

eyes full of tears

Jessica said...

This is so heartfelt and beautiful. What a wonderful man he must be!

Rita said...

Oh Misha ... I am so sorry about this! Once, he visited A'dam the same time as my brother that just passed away. We had a meal together and every time I came to SA, my brother would asked me about him. May they have a cup of coffee in heaven and talk about their grandchildren! Lots of love!