Last year, on my 18th birthday, my grandpa died. My mom told me of his death over breakfast. Oddly enough, I don't believe anyone in my immediate family shed a single tear. Although he is the first grandparent that I've ever "lost" and dealing with death is something very foreign to me, I didn't find the situation especially troubling. Sure, I felt a little sorry for my dad but the rest of my day went about in its usual way. The following day, my family and I drove the four hours to St. George where we attended my grandpa's funeral. A feeling of indifference seemed to pervade most everyone there.
Now, over a year later, I have a softer feeling.
I came back to Draper today for a short stay before I fly out tomorrow morning. While driving around with my mom, she enviously informed me that Karen, my widow-grandma, had stopped by for a visit last week and that I had just missed her. I counted my blessings. When I went down to my room, where my grandma had been staying, I found everything how I had left it except for a few added boxes that stood in the corner. I curiously looked through them until I discovered that all the boxes contained were old odds and ends that had belonged to my dead grandpa. A little annoyed at the clutter, I decided to find another place for it. Thinking that I could carry the stack of boxes in one armload proved to be a mistake. Before I could slip them onto an empty shelf in the storage room, the top box slid off and landed upside-down on the floor. My annoyance heightened as I stooped to pick up the spilled papers, photographs, and souvenirs from World War II. Some of the photos caught my eye and I seated myself on the floor to look through them. In the photos I saw my grandma and grandpa as they had always been to me: frustrated, poor, drunk, rednecks. These photos were interesting enough and I decided to look through the rest of them. I flipped over a photo that had 1949 scrawled on the back of it. I was dumbfounded to see a barely-recognizable man smiling up at me through sepia tones. Although I knew this was my grandfather, I could not dismiss my shock at finding his countenance so different from anything I ever knew of him. I suppose it is foolish to assume that the people you know have always been the way you know them now but I had never put much thought into the type of person my grandpa was in his younger life. But now I couldn't tear my eyes away from his happy, intelligent, hardworking face. This is not the grandfather that showed up every five years or so when he had spent all of his money on liquor or had gambled it all away. In the photo, his future looked promising and he radiated with health. What happened to this man between his youth and his old age? What change him into the grumpy old man I knew? I pondered these questions as I stared into my grandfather's youthful face. I wished so much that he were here now so I could ask him to tell me about his life. I tried to recall anecdotes about his life that I had been told but I don't ever remember hearing any. All I wanted was to ask him what put him on the path of drunkenness and poverty when he once was just as vibrant as the young men I know now, but I couldn't. He died last year without me ever taking the opportunity to know him, to learn about his life. I felt a deep sense of lose. I understood what it is like to lose a grandparent. Those who have real relationships with grandparents can't really call it "losing them" when they die because the grandparent isn't lost. All the knowledge that the grandparent accumulated throughout their life will not be lost because the grandchild will remember it. I know what it is "lose" a grandparent. A feeling of regret sunk deep within me. As I contemplated all the life lessons that I could've learned if I had just seized the opportunity to talk to my grandfather, tears welled up in my eyes, rolled down my cheeks, and splashed on my grandfather's boyish face. I sat on the floor and wept, with papers and mess all about me, because I understood the full magnitude of what I had lost. Looking at the photograph, I decided to throw my pride away. I decided that any mistake I have made or have yet to make will be relayed in full detail to those who know me so that when I am dead all my life learnings will not be lost. My grandchildren will never speak of my death and say that they "lost" their grandma. I decided that once I am dead, the world will have full access to all of my journals, which is an idea that had previously struck me with terror. Looking down at the photograph I had a strong desire to keep it, so I did something that I had never done in my life. I stole. The photograph is now pressed between the pages of my journal to serve as a reminder that I am an open book to anyone who thinks they can learn from my choices, whether they be bad or good.