In Memoriam

There was a gap in blogging for a while here, attributable to two things: 1) I am the laziest person you will ever meet, 2) I lost someone very important to me and took some time to figure out how to discuss that.

On January 23, my grandfather passed away.  He was a Marine who was in the First Division at Guadalcanal.  He was strong, stoic, honorable, and loud.  He was really the most prominent male role model in my life, and had a big hand in raising me.  He was married to my grandmother for 65 years (which is, like, a really long time to be married to someone – they used to say losing their hearing in old age contributed to the longevity of their marriage).

These are all things I pondered because I was asked to write his obituary.  And let me tell you, if you have never done that before…it is fucking difficult.

It’s difficult because you want very much to convey to everyone what this person meant to you.  And that is… just not possible.  Because what a person means to you, and what my grandfather meant to me, it is captured in small details in a larger frame.  Telling you my grandfather was a Marine only tells part of it.  Telling you that if someone got close to him to wake him up he’d rise with fists clenched in front of him tells you more.  Telling you that I am the only person who ever woke him by yelling in his ear and did not get punched for it tells you what he meant to me.

So, I wanted to mention my grandfather in this blog.  But this blog is not a vehicle for me to be sad and melancholy.  I save that for a bottle of wine and my cats.

What I will do instead is write about some of the things I learned from my grandfather:

  • do not litter – doing so may mean that an old man with a trashbag is out picking up your garbage and cursing your existence, and do you really want that on your karma report?
  • always back into a parking space – if you don’t do this, you will not be in a good position to have your battery jump started when the cold New England weather kills it
  • always keep your gas tank filled in the winter – if you don’t, the gas line could freeze and then once again that old man is out there helping you start your car and telling you what an idiot you are for not following this rule
  • a good American wears it with pride – One day back in the 80’s, I walked into my grandparents’ home and there was a picture on the wall, in a very prominent spot above the TV, of Ronald Reagan.  When I asked my grandfather why this was the case, I got a withering look that implied I may be missing chromosomes or something, and he said, “Because he is our President.”  And although I thought this might be some Republican schtick, Clinton was up there too when it was his time.  Go figure.
  • the word “peckerhead” applies to most people – and, folks, as I get older, this one is sooooo true

My grandfather and I differed in ideology, and frequently argued about politics.  Here is part of a conversation we had a couple years ago…

Me (in reference to the 2008 vice presidential debate): “Sarah Palin is an IDIOT!”

My grandfather: “THAT is not a nice thing to say!”

Me: “Oh, yeah?  Well then… Sarah Palin is an IDIOT!”

My grandfather (eyes bugging): “Well, what about that buddy of yours?  Obama?  He is a… MUSLIM!”

Me (making a ‘tsk tsk’ sound): “Oh grampop…Have you been watching Fox News again?  What a shame…”


The thing is…he enjoyed it.  He would have found it an affront to his sensibilities if I did not have my own strong opinion.  Or, even worse, if I did not vote.

Frankly, at moments like the one above, I could have easily stolen the phrase from that old Public Service Announcement and said, “I learned it from watching you, grampop.”

Clearly, I am painting a picture of a gruff individual.  One with a bark worse than his bite.  One who 100% supported me and was proud of me.

As his health declined (which was hard to watch, to say the least), I took joy in the times when I saw that opinionated man.  The last couple of months before he died, my grandfather decided he hated another resident at the rest home.  Just that sentence alone makes me giggle a little.  I have no idea (and neither does anyone else in my family) as to what started this little feud.  But one day, when I asked about my grandfather, my mother told me, “well, they had to change where he sits at mealtime because his arguments with this man made him so agitated he’d push himself away from the table and it caused problems”.

At the time, that made me laugh.  In retrospect…it still makes me laugh.  But it also makes me glad that some part of him was not diminished in the end.

I will miss him.

Leave a comment


  1. Colleen

     /  February 11, 2011

    To the sentence “Telling you that I am the only person who ever woke him by yelling in his ear and did not get punched for it tells you what he meant to me.”

    No Heather, it tells me what you meant to him.

  2. Quite right, Colleen.

  3. Yasamine

     /  February 12, 2011

    It IS very hard to capture the essence of an individual and that part has always made me sad. I’m sad cause no matter how many times my dad has told me of my grandmother, most of the time I half listened. And when he goes, her essence will go with him. Just like when I go, who my mom and my aunt and my dad were will die with with me. It’s sad that even our memory isn’t immortal.
    Ooohhh I sense another facebook quote coming out of me soon! 🙂
    Well done with this Heather 🙂

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