Tuesday, March 2, 2010

A Future without my Grandma, Grandpa, and Granddad.

My thanks go out to everyone on Facebook who have been so kind to express their condolences.

I'm not sure how it was for all of you when you lost your grandparents, but it is particularly tough for me since we all lived in the same town. Although my Grandma and my Granddad were the ones who have passed away this weekend, it feels like my first Grandpa just passed away as well.

As a kid, my Grandpa (Bud) drove "Hoppy Toad," a flat-bed small Nissan pickup with no suspension. He brought my sister and I Ho-Ho's, Ding-Dongs, or Crackerjacks. He accidentally ran over one of our ducks. He perpetuated the myth of the Easter Bunny by stamping giant bunny feet coated in baby powder all over the property. He ate his sourdough dipped in hot cocoa (something I do today). When I was a teenager, I worked alongside my Grandpa cleaning apartments and doing the bookkeeping. He'd listen to me prattle on about boys and school. At the end of every work day, Grandpa reminded me that it was the boys who were lucky to have me and not the other way around.

I saw Grandma nearly every day after school (since middle school). I even lived with her during parts of my senior high school and early college years after Grandpa (Bud) passed away. Those were bleak and scary times that eventually led back into lighter times. I ferried myself and my Grandma to and from doctors, ran errands for her, and as she regained her awareness of life and I recovered from being quite ill, we decided to re-enter the dating game--together. I was 20 and we were no longer grandparent and grandchild, but instead best friends. We shared dating stories, clucking happily over the good ones and commiserating over the bad ones. We laughed at how new love felt, and we cried over how frustrating it was to suffer lasting illnesses and their long-term consequences. Eventually, she met Merle who would become my Granddad. My grandmother's second husband was easily adopted by us and loved by all.

Visiting my grandparents was something more than a no-rules, cable-TV, cookies and cracker-jacks haven. They were second parents, excellent and respectable political foes, and original, interesting people. My Grandpa Bud was rough, yet refined. He had a healthy appetite for a good life that was hard-earned. He wore denim overalls during the day and a felt fedora and sport coat every night for dinner. My grandmother was an artist and well-versed in politics. My granddad Merle, was a funny and warm can-do kind of guy with a large, loving family. All three of them could dance circles around you. We didn't always agree on everything, and certainly there was family strife, but ultimately we were family and they were generous, supportive, and proud of us (grand)kids and our endeavors.

Although I had the chance last year to visit and to make my peace with her and his imminent decline (and I did), it still hits hard when you realize the place--the physical and emotional space--no longer exists. In my next trip to Chico, there is no house with the double-chocolate brownies still in the pan, picked at from the corners because "sneaking pieces doesn't count" as Grandma used to say. There isn't a giant room of fashionable, colorful clothing and shoes to try on and take home, anymore. There isn't eggs made with creamer, nor hot cocoa and sourdough slices like Grandpa Bud used to serve us kids. I can't ask Merle, "How are you doing?" anymore and expect to get his consistent belly laughing reply, "I'm okay, but I got over it!"

There's a storage unit waiting for me. Sure, there's some furniture and some memories in boxes full of frames of a previous life, but it's the new, unmade ones I already miss. There is a great sadness in knowing that my sister and I are the last of the youngest who knew them. With us lies the last memories, the vestiges of earthly recollection of them ... and a certain future without them in it that makes me sad to face.

I keep telling myself that wherever they are, they are all young and dancing. My first Grandpa is still winning Jitterbug contents and working hard in his paint-flecked denim overalls. Grandma is dressed to the nines, always a lady but flirting and dancing, turning would-be suitors away. Granddad is working iron rods into beautiful forms and in the evening he's giving the other Pinochle and Cribbage players a run for their money before sweeping my Grandma off her feet and dancing onto that golden, shimmering dance floor, heading farther off into the distance ...

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