Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Original MacGyver

(I wrote this post yesterday, and my grandfather passed away this morning. I held on to it for a day to think about it because I think you have to be careful talking about this stuff in a public forum. I reread it just now, and I think if this does nothing else, it says I love my grandpa. And the people I shared him with. I am okay sharing that message because it’s TRUE.)

When someone you love is leaving and the big death questions have to be looked at square in the face, do you blog about it? Do you say what you think you’re supposed to say? Do you dance around because of who might read it, or because you want to write as if you are someone better than you are? What would someone wise, spiritual, or clever say?

I am none of those things, but I am older today than I was yesterday. And as I sit here 10 days after we first heard it was time to say our goodbyes, I am still waiting for the phone to ring. Waiting to see who will be the one to call me and let me know it is time for the good long cry. My Grandpa George, Porgy, Jorge, who has lived a lot of life and collected a lot of names, is drifting away and it’s awful. And it’s unbearable that it’s day, after day, after day, that he is “not going to make it much longer” and then he continues to fight with his Navy Spirit. A man who has put up with my feisty grandma for years, and loved her for it, well, he’s stubborn and patient, and now we have to learn from him as we wait for him to let go and rest.

I have been thinking lately that I don’t know my grandpa that well. I hesitate to even write about him here, or speak about this with my family because I haven’t spent that much time with him. There are members of my family going through a ripping loss that in some ways has been taking years to tug and tear him away since his health took a bad turn several years ago. Their mourning is so sacred to me, their loss is so palpable, I don’t want to intrude but I still want to participate. And in that word right there I realize that I have been wrong thinking I don’t know my grandfather well. We have been participating in the same family, investing and revisiting the same group of people over and over again. Year after year of my life, even though he is not my dad’s biological father, he is the one I know. And he loved me. I know a lot about him just because he has always been a part of my brain!

Oh my gosh you guys, he used to tell these stories… they often seemed inspired by nothing that was actually happening at the moment, and they  would go on forever! Even taking a break in a story and coming back to it hours later when you thought the coast was clear. And I was a little ADD kid! I did my best, but I would be lying if I didn’t admit to wandering off in the middle of a conversation without really explaining myself, only to be tracked down later so I could hear the end of how he finally cut that pipe in half with a nail file and soldered it in place with only a magnifying glass and barbed wire, just as he finds out another leak had sprung in the sewer system of their mountain community, and all he had left to fix it was a monkey wrench, a stick of chewing gum, and Ed from up the way.

He was MacGyver before there was MacGyver. And it’s only later as an adult, now that I turn shipping boxes from Amazon into Super Mario Carts, and sew old pictures onto old fabric, that I’ve started to wrack my brains for the tidbits of his stories. He was awesome, people.

And now? And now. Even though I have had awful germs that I can’t be sharing so I have not been able to attend, I know that the room and space where he is ending his days is a revolving door of the people he has given his time on earth too. My wild aunts, my hero dad, my sister from baltimore, my colorful cousins, and ever present, my grandmother his wife and the matriarch of this intense, loving, fighting, thriving, and loyal family. A family just like everyone else’s, only maybe with a little ‘more’.  And I know that my dad is taking the love from me and my sister Lorraine and giving it to George every time he holds his hands. Every time he hugs his mom.

So, light a candle, kiss a baby, go to your temples or sandy beaches. Thank the air you breath for the strength it gives you to cry and to laugh. I know I’m thinking about these things today. I know I am spinning right along on this Circle Of Life machine every day, and I know that it scares me, and that no matter what comes next, I’m glad I got to try.

Thank you, Grandpa George. There will never be anyone like you again, times have changed, it was my honor to hear your stories, it is my honor to have your memories of time before technology and impatience. I promise to use my time to have adventures that will make you and my Grandpa Phil proud.

Love Alissa



Erin said...

I was hesitant to write anything when my grandpa died too. But after I did is when I finally felt at peace, even though I was facing so many different emotions. It's really humbling how dealing with death makes you feel so insignificant and strange. But then spending some time with my chubby little baby somehow puts it all into perspective. I'm sorry for your loss and I'm so glad that you decided to share.

Andrea said...

That was very beautifully written (maybe you learned to tell stories from your grandpa?). I am sorry that your family is hurting right now. Love you.