26 April 2010

Was I out yonder somewhere blinking at a star?

For some reason, I really miss my grandfather today...
He died unexpectedly right before I turned 18, two days after my grandmother passed away. I've never met two people who were more in love. They fought, but that made their love even more realistic. They could both be infuriating, but they were infuriating together. They were also beautiful. My grandfather remained statuesque, golden-tan, and muscular even as he passed age sixty-five. His hair maintained its dark chrome with just the slightest scattering of grey caressing his temples. My grandmother continued to move with effortless grace, commanding the attention of every eye as she glided past with her reddish hair swept off her lineless forehead.
My grandfather was the type of man who valued imagination and silliness. He never failed to make us laugh, even when I got jaded and rebellious in my teenage years. One of my most vivid memories is the lofted upstairs of my grandparents' house, my grandfather's secret haunt where only the most special were invited in (and I was on that list). He kept the Gummi candies that fed his sweet tooth placed rather precariously on his leather ottoman. However, they never seemed to fall, no matter how many times my impatient, active feet tapped at the ottoman, kicked it, or just thumped at it in the process of climbing into his lap. I would snuggle next to him in one leather recliner, and that is where I became introduced to some of the figures who have inhabited my dreams through adulthood. We watched Judy Garland or Gene Kelly follow the yellow brick road or sing in the rain; we introduced ourselves to an incorrigible girl called Gigi and hummed Gershwin tunes in An American in Paris. My grandfather even taught me how to ballroom dance, with tiny me balancing on his toes; a mass of contradictions, he had been both a star baseball player and an Arthur Murray dance instructor.
One of my biggest regrets is that in his final days, even in his final year, I let my teenage anger get in the way of my love and of forming new memories I could have cherished when he was gone. I can't even remember if I told him I loved him that night. My grandmother had lost the ability to speak, but she still loved to hear me sing, and my grandfather requested a song before I left for the night. I sang "You'll Never Walk Alone" from Carousel and then left; the next morning, my grandmother was still dying and my grandfather was in a coma. The closing refrain of that song was the final words he heard from me while he was conscious.
My grandfather was a truly remarkable man, a jack of all trades, a Renaissance man. I miss him more than I can say, and today, when one of his favorite songs crept onto my playlist as I graded papers, I couldn't help but hope that he was and is proud of me.
"As shaded as his eyes might be
That's how bright his mind is
That's how strong his love for you and me
A friend to all the universe
Grandfather of the future
And everything I would like to be
What one man can do is dream
What one man can do is love
What one man can do is change the world and make it young again
Here you see what one man can do."

If I should live forever and all my dreams come true,
My memories of love will be of you.

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