A few hours ago, too far away for me to be there, they buried my Papa.
It’s such a bizarre idea that I don’t quite believe it, and from talking to people who know, I’ve heard that if you’re not there to see the coffin lowered into the ground, it is an easy lie to hold on to. I find that I quite prefer the illusion to the truth. I’d rather believe that he isn’t answering the phone because he’s out in the garage or walking laps at home depot.
I don’t want to face the fact that I won’t get to finish recording his life story in short hour stretches on the phone at night when I’ve put the kids to bed. I don’t want to look at the list of questions I’d written down and meant to call him about. Death is part of life, it’s true, but it hurts when someone so alive is forced into memory.
I remember laying on the couch one night in Papa and Gran’s living room when I was about ten, so excited to have a turn in the most coveted sleeping spot in the house that I couldn’t get to sleep. Flipping from I Love Lucy to The Dick Van Dyke show I heard a door open down the hall and Papa’s slow step making it’s way to the kitchen for a snack. He stopped to lean over the sofa and, looking at the clock, asked why I wasn’t sleeping. When I gave him a shrug he went into the kitchen and came out with a plate of cake, and two forks, and after putting them down beside me said he’d recorded something he thought I’d like.
That’s one way Papa has always shown his love, seeing something on TV you might like and recording it. Before the days of tvio and DVR, there was Papa’s collection of VHS tapes he kept on hand for the times you wandered into the living room and sat down beside him.
That night he sat in his chair and pressed play on the scariest movie I’d ever seen, Anjelica Huston as the Grand High Witch turning children into mice. I was horrified but not afraid because he was right there. We ate cake then I hid under the covers on the sofa and fell asleep as the Christmas Tree lights twinkled in the corner. I never saw the end of the movie The Witches, until last night when I bought it and watched it and tried to summon the exact feeling I had sitting there with him. It was a feeling I always had when I was with Papa, like there was nothing all that bad in the world, that I was loved just as I was, and that everything would be alright.
I don’t want to sum up what he means to me in a blog post, it would be easier to count the stars, and there are too many stories to pick my favorite. This was just the first that came to mind when I heard the news that he was gone.
I don’t want to write about him in the past tense, or talk about him in the past tense, or think of how he used to be.
He is eighty seven years old. In his life he’s been a son and grandson, a brother, a friend, a husband, a father, and for twenty eight years and the rest of my life the most loving grandfather that will ever be.