Home > Random Musings > In Memoriam: My Grandfather

In Memoriam: My Grandfather



I never know what to do with grief or loss. I cry, certainly. I eat copious amounts of chocolate. I drink unholy (and possibly damaging) amounts of coffee.

But what does one do with grief? Where do you hang it? (In the hall closet, next to the coats?) Where do you set it down? (On the bookshelf?) How long do you entertain it? (Perhaps another plate should be set at the table.)

The answer, I suppose, is that you deal with it. Process it. Handle it. (Handle it? What is it? Chop meat? A package that needs mailing?)

I’ve never been very good at loss. Frankly, I am afraid of the person who is. No one should be skilled at losing anything but his/her keys. If that was an Olympic sport, I would EXCEL. But that’s hardly the point. In fact, I’m awkwardly avoiding the point altogether.

My grandfather was a good person. Not always an easy person. But he was, as his core, a good person. He used to say, “Alison, if you need anything, you just tell Grandpa.” He meant it. If I had called him up and told him that I needed to buy a washing machine, a couch, or a pelican – the money would’ve arrived a few days later.

He used to get the biggest kick out of the smallest things, and I loved that about him. For instance, the fact that I drink coffee, drive (even at night!), or that I enjoy spicy foods. He’d gaze at me with a mixture of horror and admiration every time I slathered my Chinese food in hot oil. A lover of spicy food, I think it was a lot of mostly admiration.

He often told the same story over and over again. That was okay by me, though. He knew how to tell a story, even if he occasionally laughed himself silly before he got to the punch line. (Dollars to donuts, you would be laughing right along with him, even though you had no idea what the joke was about.)

He used to tell this one joke, and it became a joke between us. After a while, I forgot (and still forget) the actual joke. But the punch line is: I don’t know you. You don’t know me. They don’t know us. So, who the hell are we going to invite? It didn’t matter that I couldn’t remember the heart of the joke; the end part was what made it funny.

My grandfather was also a hearty trickster who could’ve given Loki a run for his money. He once had a friend who used to mooch off of him. Constantly. He never paid for something if he didn’t have to. He would go into my grandfather’s barbershop every morning – and he’d drink a cup of coffee. He filled it with sugar, which to my grandfather remained a cardinal sin (a sin which I happily committed). So, one day, my grandfather replaced the sugar with salt. His friend came in, like always, and made himself a fake sugar-laden mug of coffee.

He sipped it. He made a face. He told my grandfather that the coffee tasted strange. My grandfather suggested that, perhaps, it needed more sugar. Great idea! More sugar was added. And more still. The damn coffee still tasted funny. (Imagine that.) My grandfather’s friend still finished that cup of coffee.

Of course, if you set foot in my grandfather’s house, you needed two things: a sense of humor and a willingness to play cards. (Three things, actually – you needed to always bring your appetite. It didn’t matter if you were hungry. Don’t be bashful. Eat! Mangi!) If you played cards with him, you quickly learned to pay attention. If you didn’t, you would lose before you had a chance to figure out what you had in your hand. If he was feeling particularly devilish, he’d attempt to cheat. He’d do that, every now and then, just to make sure you were paying attention. Always pay attention. Always trash talk. Always be prepared to lose spectacularly. He was damned good at cards, and he’d tell you exactly what you had in your hand at any point in time.

This week, I will bury my grandfather. I don’t like to think about that. I do not like to dwell on what that means. The ramifications seem daunting and somewhat endless. Soon, there won’t be a need for that house that holds so many memories, from the time I tried to hatch a pigeon egg to the time my grandfather sneezed in my dad’s soup – and then began to laugh hysterically.

I don’t want to think about the viewing or the funeral – two things that must be gotten through. I don’t know what to do with any of it. So, I’m doing what I do best: writing about it.

I want to remember my grandfather, with his pageboy cap and sly sense of humor. He could make fun of anyone – most of the time without their knowledge. With a grin (and sometimes a wink), I’d usually end up laughing at the dinner table, muttering some pathetic excuse.

In the middle of his 90s, he would insist on directing the car out of the driveway. Never mind that he did not, himself, drive. He was looking out for his kids and his grandkids, and come hell or high water, we were getting out of there safely. Miraculously, we never ran anything over by accident.

My grandfather always knew best, after all. He’d tell you to put a coat on – you’re cold. It didn’t matter if you were cold. You’d have to convince him otherwise. Like the cards, you’d probably lose, but you’d laugh about it.

I will, without question or pause, miss my grandfather. But I know that it was his time. I know that he is finally at peace. And I know that he’s probably cheating Dean Martin at Gin Rummy right now.

Good luck, Dino. You’ll need it.

Categories: Random Musings Tags: , ,
  1. Andrea
    January 17, 2011 at 9:53 pm

    I LOVE the idea of your grandfather playing cards with Dean Martin and the rest of the Rat Pack. He sounds like a wonderful and fun man. May he rest in peace.

    • Ali
      January 18, 2011 at 7:26 am

      Thank you, Andrea! *smile*

  2. January 17, 2011 at 9:56 pm

    I think I’d have liked your grandfather. He sounds like an original. I never knew either of mine; they both died before I was born. So I had substitutes, and good ones, in a few of my uncles and aunts. It’s weird to think that I’ll never see them again, or hear them tell the same silly jokes. I didn’t really mourn when they died, as I didn’t mourn for my mom. I just remember them as they were, and wish we could be together just a little longer as we were.

    • Ali
      January 18, 2011 at 7:27 am

      Hank, without a doubt — I really think you would’ve liked him. And thank you for sharing what you did. That made me smile. 🙂

  3. Dan
    January 17, 2011 at 10:21 pm

    Very touching, I’m very sorry for your loss. As I read I saw a lot of myself in your grandfather. I would have liked to test his skills at cards as well as wit. If you ever need someone to school you in a game of cards or play a practical joke on you, or even just worry excessively about you, you let us know. We’re always here if you need us.

    • Ali
      January 18, 2011 at 7:28 am

      Thanks, Dan. I appreciate it. And I just might take you up on that card offer. Have you ever played Casino? *grin* Thanks, Dan. 🙂

  4. January 17, 2011 at 10:48 pm

    My heart felt condolences Ali. His smile and thoughts will remain with you always.

    My best prayers and thought are with you and your family.

    Your friend,


    • Ali
      January 18, 2011 at 7:29 am

      Thanks, Doug. I appreciate your thoughts. 🙂

  5. greekphysique
    January 18, 2011 at 1:09 am

    Best wishes and condolences, wish you and yours the best.

    • Ali
      January 18, 2011 at 7:29 am

      Thanks, Greek. You’re a sweetheart.

  6. January 18, 2011 at 7:59 am

    A beautiful tribute. It’s obvious you loved him very much, and he you. Sending love and comfort your way, my friend. xoxo

    • Ali
      January 24, 2011 at 11:24 am

      Thank you very much, Luann. I’m glad that you read this — and thank you for the comfort. You are a sweet person and a good friend. 🙂

  7. January 18, 2011 at 9:24 am

    I’m very sorry for your loss. I hope you find comfort in the fact he lived a fulfilling life, as depicted in your post. Best wishes x

    • Ali
      January 24, 2011 at 11:25 am

      Thank you so much for reading and commenting. I do take comfort in the fact that he lived a rather extraordinary life. 🙂

  8. January 18, 2011 at 10:03 am

    I’m so sorry, it’s very hard to loose someone so important. It sounds like he was a very sweet, fun man, and definitely unforgettable.

    • Ali
      January 24, 2011 at 11:26 am

      Thanks, Jessica. He was, indeed, an unforgettable person. Thanks for reading and commenting. 🙂

  9. January 18, 2011 at 11:39 am

    I am so sorry about your loss, Ali. My maternal grandfather was my best friend – and by the sound of it, your grandfather and my grandfather would have gotten into A LOT of trouble together. If there is heaven, they are probably pulling all kinds of tricks up there together.

    • Ali
      January 24, 2011 at 11:27 am

      Maria, thank you so much for reading this. It sounds like are grandfathers are probably raising hell together, which is most excellent. 🙂

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