.

 

Family Snapshot

Beginning to understand my grandfather will die.

I am suffering from nostalgia, playing the computer games I played when I was twelve, listening to hissing cassette tapes, reading old letters, remembering old girlfriends. I'm leafing through my past because my grandfather will die sometime in the next few months, and I'm looking for the places in my life where his orbit was strongest felt.

He was born in 1914, a year before Frank Sinatra, and only 25% of his heart has beat for the past six years; the rest is dead tissue. Two weeks ago, at Chester County Hospital, I sat by his electric bed and retold some of his own old jokes. He laughed at the dirty punchlines and held my hand. He has a 400 volt defribulator, a large metal box, planted in his stomach. "When you go," I said, "we'll ship you to a village in Africa and the Peace Corps can use you as a generator."

This nostalgia is like rewinding a video, pausing to watch my favorite scenes before I return the tape to the store. I'll be able to rent it again, later, but one of the main characters, living pops, will be replaced with dead pops. As I get older, the scenes that he and I filmed will take on a historical drift, turning into misty half-fictions in the faded herkajerk of silent movies.

This pre-death period is tough. When should I visit? When I visit, should I joke around or weigh things down with dignity? What if I don't fit in my suit anymore?

Even though I know the ending, I don't want to skip to the last page of the book. Yes, each phone call might be the last, but he's alive now and I'll take that, instead. It was good to have known him.

.  .  .  .  .  

Notes:

  1. On 8-dec-97, my mother emailed my brother and I:
  2. Please set aside 15 minutes each week to devote to your grandfather and grandmother. Either send a note or card, an e mail I can print and give them, or pick up the phone and say hi. Each week set aside these 15 minutes for Pop. I don't think, if you can budget 15 minutes each week you will be sorry later for an opportunity missed. An hour every month or one long visit, although appreciated in another way, won't make up for that weekly thoughtfullness. There won't be other chances. This is a lot to ask, but, aside from being kind and righteous, it will teach you to put your money where your mouths are and that will be a good lesson for you both. Words and deeds are often seperate and sometimes we can get in the habit of saying things and not doing them. So, that 's my hard line for my sons.

    Other than that, I hope all is well and I look forward to the holidays and hope that you can remember your family and know that later may be too late. It's hard to believe that, but it is true. So, God Bless you both. I love you and I am so proud of both of you. I feel very, very fortunate to have two wonderful, decent, honest and spirit led children who seem to have some moral strength in this fast moving and often confusing world. Upward and Onward Love Mom

    Hey, Gram and Pop, hope it's going okay or at least not too bad. Things are good in the big city; my company is going great guns, although they don't have much of an inclination to pay me very much.

    I went to the Transit museum with my friend Steve Burns yesterday. I went to his place in Greenwich Village and we walked from there, across the Brooklyn Bridge, and down a few blocks to the museum. It was fun--you got to run around inside the trains from 1910 and see how they built the subways, learn how the tracks work. It's in an out-of-service subway station. Then we went to see "The Wings of the Dove," a weepy serious movie where everyone travels around Europe and kisses each other on the hand. Not bad, not great. Steve and I went out to a bar, I had a single glass of hard cider and got sick to my stomach and came home. What a wild life, huh? I think I've been getting a little sick. My throat's been raw this week.

    In any case, it just turned midnight and I have to sack out in order to get to work at a reasonable time tomorrow. I'll call or write soon. Keep plugging away; I'll come down soon, I hope.


    Love,
    Paul

    Other than that, I hope all is well and I look forward to the holidays and hope that you can remember your family and know that later may be too late. It's hard to believe that, but it is true. So, God Bless you both. I love you and I am so proud of both of you. I feel very, very fortunate to have two wonderful, decent, honest and spirit led children who seem to have some moral strength in this fast moving and often confusing world. Upward and Onward Love Mom

  3. The first note I sent to my grandparents in reply:
  4. Hey, Gram and Pop, hope it's going okay or at least not too bad. Things are good in the big city; my company is going great guns, although they don't have much of an inclination to pay me very much.

    I went to the Transit museum with my friend Steve Burns yesterday. I went to his place in Greenwich Village and we walked from there, across the Brooklyn Bridge, and down a few blocks to the museum. It was fun--you got to run around inside the trains from 1910 and see how they built the subways, learn how the tracks work. It's in an out-of-service subway station. Then we went to see "The Wings of the Dove," a weepy serious movie where everyone travels around Europe and kisses each other on the hand. Not bad, not great. Steve and I went out to a bar, I had a single glass of hard cider and got sick to my stomach and came home. What a wild life, huh? I think I've been getting a little sick. My throat's been raw this week.

    In any case, it just turned midnight and I have to sack out in order to get to work at a reasonable time tomorrow. I'll call or write soon. Keep plugging away; I'll come down soon, I hope.


    Love,
    Paul

  5. A seven year-old turns up in his classroom one morning to be confronted by his teacher:

    Teacher: Morning Tommy, and why weren't you at school yesterday?

    Tommy: Well Miss, my Grandad got burnt.

    Teacher: Oh Dear, he wasn't too badly hurt I hope?

    Tommy: Oh yes Miss, they don't fuck around at those crematoriums.

    (from http://comedy.clari.net)

    Tommy: Well Miss, my Grandad got burnt.

    Teacher: Oh Dear, he wasn't too badly hurt I hope?

    Tommy: Oh yes Miss, they don't fuck around at those crematoriums.

    (from http://comedy.clari.net)


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