|I loved my grandparents. With the exception of Grandpa Flip, they all passed away while I was in college. Grandpa Flip died when I was 7, and his was the first funeral I ever attended. I am glad my parents had me go, glad they did not try to soften what had happened.|
But as for Grandma Lucy, Grandpa Francis, and Grandma Mary -- and yes, I count Sara's parents too, so Grandpa and Grandma Brunell -- I lost my remaining five grandparents while in college. I lost Uncle David while in law school, but that is a different story.
The strange thing is, and it seems strange to write this, but I lost these five grandparents at "the right time." I say that because I was away, I was in college, and they were no longer a part of my day to day life. Growing up, I saw them a lot. On my mom's side, I was the first grandchild, and that probably resulted in extra attention. And on my dad's side, I got all the attention and love a grandchild could ever want as well.
But I was in college. And I had hit a point in my life where it was as if I went away for school and just hadn't seen them in such a long time -- even after they were gone. I could rationalize it that way, since it was not as if I saw they every day before, so how was this any different? But the truth is, I loved them, I missed them, and this was just a way of dealing with it.
I wish I had had them longer. They never knew me as a lawyer. They never saw me get married (or divorced -- and perhaps it is better than Fran never saw that). When I have children, they will never know each other.
My own father never knew his father's father, Philip Sheridan. He was a nurseryman, a man of average height and stout build -- or so says his WWI draft registration card. A man born in Conneautville, his parents the children of Irish immigrants. For some reason, Phillip moved to Chicago and married a lovely woman there, Mildred (her, I knew). They had two children (Philip Michael "Flip" and Agnus), and lived in a house that is now a vacant lot. And for reasons just as mysterious, they moved from Chicago to Girard, PA. And he died before my father was born. I have no idea where he is buried, but if I had to guess, I would suspect somewhere in Crawford County, PA.
But I never knew him. I just find him curious. I saw a picture of him once, when Grandma Mary was still alive. He looked like a shorter, fatter version of me. He had a twin brother named Stu. Or so states the old census records for Conneautville.
I can only dream what he might have been like. But I knew the others. I knew Fran and Lucy, Flip and Mary, Wilbert and Margaret. I made the mistake of calling Lucy right before she died. I was in college in Toledo, and Lucy was in the hospital. I called her room phone, and she was heavily medicated, disoriented, and she barely sounded like herself. She did not know who I was. And when I tried to explain, she only got confused, and then she hung up. This last memory of her is not one I remember fondly. No, when I think of Lucy, I think of her penchant for crossword puzzles and word games, her wicked sense of humor, her card playing skills, her hands-off fatalism and ambivilence toward a world over which she had no control, and yes, her smoking and drinking. I remember she never learned to drive a car, and as a young lad, I so helpfully informed her that she ought to learn because grandpa might not always be around. She took one look at me and said rather matter-of-factly that she didn't think that it would be a problem. And as it turned out, she was right, as she passed away first.
During the first year of my life, Lucy had a huge role in raising me, as my parents were finishing college. Of course, I have no memory of that.
But you see, when I left for college, I never saw Lucy again.
For whatever it is worth, I have been fortunate in this sense. I have not yet lost someone with whom I was in constant contact while I was in constant contact. If I lost someone while I was living with them, or at a time when I saw them frequently, even once a month, that would be a lot harder. That has never happened to me. And I keep this mind when I see others take their losses so hard. For while I have known death, I have somehow managed to keep it distant. It has helped me deal. And I wish I could offer advice to those who have lost someone closer, or are watching firsthand someone who is close to them go through what may be their final days. I can offer my heart, my shoulder, my sympathy. But I suspect I do not entirely know how they must feel. And because of that, sometimes I am at a loss to know what to say.