During my second UC hospitalization, which lasted three and a half months leading up to my ileostomy surgery, my grandparents were there in the hospital with me every single day, ministering to my needs, bringing me things, schmoozing with the nurses to get them to see me as a real person and not just another faceless patient.
My grandparents died when I was a young man, and I have always missed them terribly, most particularly my grandfather, with whom I was closer. The main regret that I suffer is that we never really talked. We were just grandfather and grandson, living in two different worlds, crossing paths at Sunday dinners.
Time is so fluid, perhaps it is possible that, if I happen to float into the right place at the right time in the grand ontological flux, I can sit down with my grandfather as an equal and have a meaningful conversation. We will both be 78 years old now. Way back when he was old and I was young, we had nothing in common beyond blood and my underachieving father, and it never occurred to me to ask him questions about himself and his life. I was just a self-absorbed kid, and why would he want to bore me with talk about himself? But now, I've become my grandfather. We can converse as equals, share points of view on a level playing field or, at least, a field of the same length.
We could be old men together; what could be greater than that? I remember when he used to sit in his designated chair on the porch, chewing his unlit cigar. Now I do the same thing. Of course, he likely paid a quarter for his stogie, while mine costs twenty-four times that. We can complain about inflation together. He always used to say, “I remember when such'n'such only cost X.” I do the same thing these days. We ought to get along great; we're both cheapskates.
“I see your ears have gotten big, just like mine,” he'll kid me.
“Yeh,” I'll admit, “and more hair in them than on my head, just like you.”
He first became a grandpa during World War II when I was born. But he had a whole, large life leading up to then, his own youth, his own hopes and dreams and, ultimately, his own disappointments. Somewhere along the line, he met and married my grandmother, and they had a long life together. There's just so much that I'd like to know about that past. How did they meet? How did he get into the wholesale meat business? Why did they leave New York and move to Miami? What did he think about all the incredible changes and advances that were taking place all around him as he got older? Who were some of the people that he respected or enjoyed, or disliked, and why? He could tell me all about members of the family that I never even heard about. And did he have a theory about why Aunt Gussie always smelled like beef stew?
I think that the concept of life-after-death is a religious con job, but if there is, I'm going to be looking for my grandfather.
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