Wednesday, November 08, 2006

For we may and might never

Kind friends and companions, come join me in rhyme
Come lift up your voices in chorus with mine
Let us drink and be merry, all grief to refrain
For we may and might never all meet here again

Here's a health to the company and one to my lass
Let us drink and be merry all out of one glass
Let us drink and be merry, all grief to refrain
For we may and might never all meet here again

One of Uncle Carl's kids or grandkids, or someone, got married at Chaminade a few years back. It was a beautiful ceremony, and I was there with my parents and my grandparents. During the reception, the DJ announced for all the married couples to get up and come to the dance floor, and then dance. My parents and grandparents went up and danced for a bit. Then the DJ asked for those who'd been married 10 years or more to remain while the rest sat down. Then 20 years or more. Then 25, 30, 35... and soon my grandparents were the only ones left. But they still had a long way to go. 40, 45, 50, 60!

The image of the two of them up there dancing alone while everyone cheered (and they did cheer!) will always stick with me. In all the noise and ruckus, there was just my grandmother, smiling in the arms and eyes of my grandpa. They were so proud and happy that day. I think the bride actually gave her bouquet to my grandmother instead of throwing it to the unmarried women. (at least that's how my mother remembers it) When they came back to the table, they were a little tired, and a lot ecstatic.

After the wedding, my grandfather made us all drive to Marianne's to get ice cream. I thought it was a place they'd been recently or regularly, but in fact it was another of those things my grandpa had done once many years ago, and kept filed in his encyclopedic brain. Worth it; I am hooked forever, and going there always will remind me of Grandpa.

My grandparents were preparing to celebrate their 65th wedding anniversary this December 27th. We were all excited, and preparations were being made. Invitation postcards were already mailed. 65 years of marriage is so rare, and 65 years of happy marriage... We all were so excited.

And in the end, it was pretty sudden. My grandfather was out cleaning up sides of highways, having meetings, going door-to-door campaigning for local ballot issues and his favorite congressman. He had climbed Mt. Whitney a few times. He was a strong, hearty man, who gave painfully slappy hugs right up until he didn't anymore. Paul seemed surprised that I didn't take what would have been the last bit of peanut butter for my waffle the last time we visited. Normally, I'd do just that, but you just didn't take Grandpa's peanut butter. Even *I* wouldn't do it. He wasn't the sort of man you'd want to upset.

My grandfather was a champion bellower. He would famously declare at the end of the evening, when parties were still in full swing, "I'm tired, everybody go to bed." And they would.

One of my favorite memories of my grandfather is the time I got to go to a Peace rally march, before the war in Iraq started. Grandpa, my mother, myself, and my cousin's daughter, all got to go together. Four generations, and I know my grandfather was proud. When can I grow into a person I feel would really be worthy of his pride?

For all his loud showy strength and power, my grandmother is the quiet, soft voice that reigned him in and made sense of his life. I cannot imagine my grandfather without her. I grew up in the world they built for all of us; my strength comes from them; my sense of right and just comes from them; my love of peanut butter and family come from them. My big, strong eyebrows come from Grandpa. We've all been trying to cultivate his eyebrows on our own faces. I hope I can cultivate his sense of responsibility, justice, and service as well.

Recently, my grandparents went to a charity auction where one of the prizes was a part in the local drama school (or club, or whatever)'s play. One of the local winemakers actually started bidding on the part, for my grandmother to have the part. My grandmother has been a teacher all her life, by calling, and when I was a child, was very active in getting the kids into drama (specifically, the Wizard of Oz, but I also remember her taking me to see The King and I which one of her students was in). They won the auction, soo that my grandmother would be in the local play, and my grandfather, who is notoriously frugal (well, he is a child of the Great Depression, and wasn't a big spender) got so excited by it, that he started bidding on a prize of the local drama/singing students coming to the winner's house or event to sing "There's no Business Like Show Business." Totally out of character for Grandpa to spend money on such a thing, but, see, he adored his Kay, in a way that outweighed every practical bone in his body. For all his brashness and loud grumpy-face show, Grandpa was a man who lived every deed and thought in love.

It's hard now, to wake up to the reality that Grandpa won't be there to ask who left their glass half full on the table, or look for that piece of paper (he's spent most of his life looking for a piece of paper). I can't imagine that we won't be told where to go (15 miles out of the way) to get cheaper gas. My uncle said it best, that whenever you didn't know something, you could just ask grandpa. Now who will we ask? Who will jump up from every dinner to grab an encyclopedia, almanac, atlas, or dictionary?

I miss him so much.

and all I have is, that, we did make it out there once this year. I meant to go again, though. But things aren't always where you left them; things won't always be there next time. My grandparents have always been my heroes, and I wish I'd made more time, to be there, to absorb everything, all the stories, all the wisdom, all the character.

Don't let it pass you by, and always tell the people that matter, how much they mean to you.

1 comment:

Phreddiva said...

Thank you for this.