After Life


I have always liked to believe that my relationship with my Grandfather was special… I liked to, and still do, like to believe that we had something super cool, funny, and different than anything he had with the other grandchildren (I mean, hell, they didn’t come along until sixteen years after I was in the picture.) I think relationships are very personal between the two people, and I do think that relationships can be completely different between people within the same household. I liked my Grandpa best. No joke. I liked that he read to me at night. ‘Katie the Cow’, except I told him I was not nearly as entertained by this book as I had hoped. He took it upon himself and inserted dramatic curse words in random places in the book and they were completely relevant and contextual to what was actually happening in the story. Do not tell your Mother, or else I’m in deep shit, Ok, Alyssa? No problem. Got it.

I lived in his household until I was 13… and sometimes after I was adjusting to living with my mother and stepfather, I still thought that I could call him or go there and ask for the thing my parents weren’t giving me and I would get away with it.  I might have even been right about that theory on some occasions.

When somebody you love dies, suddenly, and you have such little times to come to terms with it, I am finding – it is like a burst bubble. “Holy shit, what just happened? Really? No. No, this did not just happen. Let’s all close our eyes, go to sleep, dream it didn’t happen and then when we wake up everything will be fine.” 

Fast forward to Christmas Day. Our first Christmas without him. I know he was likely a burden to some because of his health issues and his agitation with his health issues and an inability to do the things he used to enjoy doing, or simply doing for himself. My lovely Aunt had burned several decades, back to the 60’s of my immediate family, and beyond for others, of DVDs of home videos.

And suddenly he was alive again. There he was, young, healthy (er), and holding a tiny version of my mom in a massive bonnet way too large for her tiny head and crazy blue eyes. There he was. Alive. He was standing on the church steps beckoning my uncle to head down the stairs towards my perfectly put-together Grandmother with great 60’s hair, and holding the door for the outward rush of people and other family members following. In random clips he was in the background doing something, or talking to someone, but he was never waving at the camera or talking to the camera…nothing like that. He was perfectly alive, set to music. Wound reopened in a particularly violent way, combined with far more wine than I would have had at a family gathering. Then I am standing in the cold with my husband on top of chunks of haphazardly spread mud in a cemetery, surely right on top of his body, in 5 inch heels. Sobbing. Whining. Sobbing… None of this was “fair”, because I just saw him, I just left him… He was just alive and just moving. Reset button.

Shortly thereafter you have to make a solid, conscious, choice to move forward. Here I am, look at me go, moving forward. I can do this. You go on your honeymoon, you have a couple moments where you say to your husband, “Wow, Grandpa would have thought this was the most beautiful beach…I wish I could show him.” And then you return to the land of the living. A lucky place to be for most. You make a conscious decision that you know that no new memories can be made with that person, and that no new sources of communication can ever be forged with this person again. You have to rip it off like a band-aid and hope it doesn’t rip the hair off with it and leave a nasty red mark. I’m still learning all of this, but those are all way less-than-actual-results to explain grief.

And then, several weeks later… your family finally decides its time to go through a bit of his things, a bit at a time. Not too much, just enough.

You can do this. You saw your grandfather’s fleece blanket creep into your house with your daughter. You had a freak-out. But its OK now.

“What?! What is this?! How did you get this?!”

“…Grandma gave it to me.”

(Me, having a mini panic attack, feverishly dialing my grandparent’s home number that still says, and always will say, “Grandma Grandpa Home” in my cell phone.)

She had to talk me off the ledge and insist that she wasn’t giving away all of his stuff without me, just the blanket to Girl Child and that we would be going through the rest the coming weekend. Ok. I was calm. It was fine. I would be fine. Something of his was in my house and I would watch it carefully to make sure my daughter didn’t damage, or lose, a tangible item of his. Ok. I’m fine. Soft Reset.

Today, we loaded into the car, I psyched myself up that we would be going through lots of tangible things, since he kept virtually EVERYTHING, and it might be overwhelming to me. I had my husband, who supports me, gets me back on track, and makes most awful situations 100x easier for me to handle. I’ve got this!

So many things in the first few drawers of his chest of drawers made us smile and laugh. The chest of drawers was not really filled with clothes, mostly papers, knick-nacks, random spilled peanuts, tons of medication and medication pamphlets, and a SERIOUS amount of things that the grandchildren had given him over the years. He kept it all…

Until, my Aunt started looking through his wallet, looking at his license, finding $14 dollars. (Random…) and then… this….

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I have no clue when he wrote this. The note was on a little yellow scrap of paper and was folded neatly into a little pocket in his wallet. I do not know if he knew what was coming when he wrote this. I feel like there were numerous times he thought “This was it”… but I don’t know if it was this time…or another time.  I don’t know what he was thinking when he wrote this, if he was sad, hurting, frustrated with his own mortality – or… recognizing that in his years he was never too vocal about his love for people, though for me I always felt he was the most affectionate figure in my world without saying what he was feeling. Most of the time he squeezed my hand, patted me on the hand, or did a quick squeeze of the shoulders. I think my grandma is cuddly with the kids, too, but I think with him it just stood out so much to me because I was not use to seeing affectionate male figures in my world. I sat on my knees, covering my face, cried, shook, sobbed… He was communicating with me, with us, again… I had ripped off that god-damned band-aid and now here it was creeping back by way of communication that now “existed” again. He was getting the last word, and suddenly I was getting a “new” memory with him.

Hard Reset.

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