Remembering Grandpa

20 Oct

muertos 4The other day, my eight year-old daughter, Isa said something that stuck with me: “Mommy,” she said, “Isn’t it sad that I’m not used to saying the word Grandpa?”

It’s very sad, indeed. Isa has never had a grandfather, as René’s father and my father both died before she was born. My father has been gone for almost thirty years now and it seems as if I think of him more often as I grow older myself. It’s become a regular occurrence that his memory comes to me when I’m reading or writing and I don’t know the meaning of a particular word. I think to myself, Oh, if only Dad were here—I could ask him—because when I was a young girl, every single time I needed to know what a word meant, he always knew.

My dad still shows up in my dreams sometimes. I’m the first to admit that because of his alcoholism, I’ve carried the weight of a heavy resentment toward him for many years. But now in my dreams, I’m no longer the victimized and martyred little girl as I used to be. I’m just a daughter who’s over the moon to see her daddy again. And as if I’m still half his height, I stretch my arms up high to hug him, the soft cotton material of his Brooks Brothers button up shirt brushing against my skin. I bury my face into his neck, the scent of nicotine and Old Spice coming off of him like a stale and comforting perfume. I always ask him the same question: “Where have you been all this time?”

Lately, I think of my dad every time I walk through the living room. It’s that time of year again when we set up our altar for Dia de los Muertos—Day of the Dead, and his photograph is the focal point of our altar. He’s surrounded by skulls, candles, marigolds, pan de muerto, and most importantly, by the smiling faces of other relatives and friends who have also left this earth.

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I think he would be surprised by the number of faces placed next to his: his two younger brothers; his granddaughter, Gillian; the many faces of Isa’s young friends who’ve all died from cancer. He might be a little bit pleased that on this altar he’s still the patriarch—the grandpa watching over them all—a part of something that we who are still here on this earth have yet to understand.

It feels good to remember that in more ways than not, my dad was a decent man. He was flawed, as I am, but he did the best he knew how to do, just as I’m doing the best I know how to do. And despite his imperfections as a father, he must have done a few things right along the way.

After all, I turned out pretty good.

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8 Responses to “Remembering Grandpa”

  1. Linda Rosen October 21, 2013 at 5:39 am #

    Beautiful tribute to your father and how wonderful that you can hold him close, with all his imperfection, and forgive while not forgetting.

    • Allegro non tanto October 21, 2013 at 7:49 pm #

      Thank you, Linda. It’s such a release to let the resentment go.

      • injaynesworld October 26, 2013 at 7:25 pm #

        I completely understand, Jessica. My father was absent from my life mostly do to his drug and alcohol problems and it wasn’t really until this past year that I was finally able to release my resentment and allow myself to just love him, flaws and all. This is an exquisite piece of writing, my friend.

  2. Britton Swingler October 21, 2013 at 10:44 am #

    Your pieces are always full of warmth, love, and wisdom. I enjoy them so much. I can only imagine what a joy it will be to read your book when it is ready.

    Your ability to find the positives about your father is a rare gift (one you give to yourself, and one that can inspire others who have dealt or deal with an alcoholic parent). There is such freedom in withholding judgement and instead realizing that we all fight demons. Some battles are fought for a lifetime; others are short-lived regrets or things we wish we would have done differently, but all are the result of the inevitable challenges we face as less than perfect vessels.

    I love your perspective on life and the way that you shower those in your fold with such timeless love.

    • Allegro non tanto October 21, 2013 at 7:51 pm #

      I think your comment was one of the most beautiful I’ve ever received! Thank you for being such an important a part of my writing world.

  3. debatterman October 22, 2013 at 9:32 am #

    Can’t help but hear Eva Cassidy singing, ‘Time is a healer,’ when I read this. I especially love that it was your daughter’s observation, in all its innocent wisdom, that seemed to trigger this post. Then there’s the timing of it, ‘Dia de los Muertos,’ that has to bring a great deal of reflection.

    • Allegro non tanto October 22, 2013 at 9:45 am #

      You know, Rene and I were just discussing how important our altar has become in our lives. Just setting it up every year gives us the opportunity to remember the people we once knew and loved so much. Memories fade over time, Dia de los Muertos brings them all right back again.

  4. Becky Green Aaronson October 25, 2013 at 9:28 am #

    This is one of my favorite traditions your family does. I love the importance it has in your lives, and all the memories it brings back each year. And your writing? Sublime. No matter what your subject, your words always transport us right into your heart. Your dad would be so proud.

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