I never cried at my grandmother’s funeral. At the time I felt horribly guilty. While so many others, including my dad, were in tears over the tragic loss, I simply stood there expressionless, trying to relate to the sadness everyone else seemed to be feeling. It haunted me for years until I finally figured it out one year. It wasn’t because I was emotionally devoid or simply didn’t care that she died, what was going on is that I had accepted that she was going to die a long time before she actually did. I knew it was going to happen from the day she was put into Brandywine Senior Hospital. I chose instead to focus on the good times we had, whether it was her living room excitedly shouting answers at game show competitors, eating rice pudding in the kitchen, looking for groundhog holes in the yard or taking wood shop lessons from my quiet but loving grandfather.I grew up around my grandparents, spending every Friday with them while my mom and dad were at rehearsals. So they were a big part of raising me while I was growing up, and they cared for me as though I was their own child. I remember one day when I was happily sitting in the kitchen of my grandparent’s house, eating Cheerios out of a plastic cup with a panda bear on it. As I sat silently squishing Cheerios with my fingers, I somehow managed to get my elbow stuck between the rungs of the hardwood chair I was sitting in. At first I dismissed it as a simple misplacement of a limb, but after several minutes of struggling to get unstuck, I got nothing accomplished but minor chafing and being more stuck. I called out for help, Within seconds, my grandfather, Pop-Pop, came dashing into the room in a panic, almost skidding on the floor. He breathed a heavy sigh of relief as I told him I was stuck, laughing at my mistake and his panic in his friendly, deep chuckle. He headed for the sink, smoothing his thin comb-over and pushing up his glasses as he calmly walked. Once he was there, he grabbed a damp bar of soap and a good fistful of paper towels. He ran the paper towel on the parts of the chair where my elbow wasn’t; calmly explaining every detail of what he was doing and why. After ten minutes of more soap and towels, he finally got my elbow unstuck and we headed to the living room just in time for Wheel of Fortune.
My grandfather was a very solemn man, but also very loving. He sort of had this “macho man” mentality and made a great effort not to show emotion. He showed love in his own little ways, often helping me with small tasks that in my youth I couldn’t do by myself, like getting a book off a high shelf or lifting a bag of blocks. He was always very proud when I could finally do it myself. We also shared a common interest, toy trains. On rainy days we would set up elaborate mazes of Lionel train tracks that wound around the whole house or sometimes we’d go to a local train-themed restaurant called “Jimmy Johns”, where they sold the cheapest edible hot dogs known to man and had huge toy trains that went around the whole restaurant.
When my grandfather died, I went into a sort of denial. My childish mind kept finding pieces of evidence that could prove to my saddened family he was not actually dead, but simply asleep in the box. Unlike my grandmother’s death, I wasn’t old enough to connect hi sickness to the fact that he was going to die. I thought he was sick in the same way I got sick and would get better in a weeks time. For three months I kept telling myself that. It took me about a month to finally wrap my head around the fact that he was gone forever.
My grandmother was a much softer person and even more quiet than my grandfather. She was loving in her own warm way. She showed her love through caring; much of my time spent at their house was in her lap. She was also always the one to clean scrapes I got and cook special foods that my dad and I took time out of our day just to eat.
When my grandmother died, I was ready. Between the death of a few pets and another relative, I had learned what death was and how to accept it. It still saddened me, but this time I also knew how to cope. The trick was to look at it like the end of a movie. The characters are still in your mind, you can always replay your favorite lines like a movie, but you’re still sad that its over.