Grandpa cried when I told him that Uncle Mark had died but he was stone faced the day of Grandma’s funeral.
I stood next to him while we said Kaddish graveside and he held onto my shoulder. I felt him wobble once or twice, but he never faltered.
We made eye contact once or twice and I saw what lay under the surface, but he mostly kept his own counsel.
Dad came around to my left side and whispered in my ear to stay by grandpa’s side.”Watch out for him, he appreciates you being there more than you know.”
Probably would have even if he hadn’t asked.
Four years later I called Dad to tell him Grandpa had died. I remember him pausing for a moment and then telling me he and mom would drive home, but it would take a bit because they were out of town.
His voice never wavered or cracked as he told me to look out for my sisters and agreed to be careful driving home.
I saw him shed a few tears the weddings of his daughters, but not for his little brother or his father but I never thought twice about it because I knew he loved them.
But at Grandpa’s funeral he held onto my shoulder just as Grandpa had and I noticed when his grip tightened but said nothing.
I didn’t cry at the hospice nor when I was alone with his body and it was just the two of us.
I didn’t have to fight to maintain my composure when it was mom, my middle sister and I at the deli talking about who we needed to call and what arrangements remained.
Didn’t cry at the funeral or at Shiva.
Could tell you about how hard I used to cry as a boy and the times Dad would tell me to control myself but some of you might accuse him of being overly hard on me.
Maybe he was and maybe he wasn’t. He was human and he was my father which is to say he wouldn’t care what almost any one of you thought about it and I am good with that.
Some people suggest that tears would have released more pain and made some of this easier, but I am not convinced of that.
When I didn’t cry at the funeral it wasn’t a conscious effort not to but I was very aware of my children, nephews, nieces, sisters, mom, wife and extended family.
Dad wasn’t there anymore and though I wouldn’t pretend to try to be him it is still clear to me some of what he wanted me to do.
Not be him, but still look out for everyone.
When Destiny Calls
There is a man in the 9/11 Boat lift video that talks about the importance of never going through life saying you should have that echoes in my head.
Maybe it is because something in this song touched me days before I watched it or maybe it is because of a million other things, can’t really say.
Could be the echoes of a discussion about a red dress or a blue dress or the sense that some calls cannot be ignored and have to be answered or you will forever regret not trying to walk the damn line.
If you wanted to know the crude version floating through my head you would hear “Destiny calls motherfucker and I will answer, but so will you.”
I can’t tell you how or why some things are. Can’t explain what fuels some fires and what drives some people but I know from experience the fuel exists and so does the drive.
“Absence is a house so vast that inside you will pass through its walls and hang pictures on the air.”
The face in the mirror still throws me because I know him but I don’t recognize him because I can see the weight of the journey and the knowledge that so much more has to be gone through before the next step.
But destiny calls and we will answer.
I don’t remember the first conversation Dad and I had on that first September 11 nor exactly what we discussed on September 13, 2001.
But I remember him holding his grandson and seeing his eyes light up when they made eye contact.
Later we stood in the backyard at the old house and he told me not to worry about the world changing.
“We’re going to turn somewhere into a parking lot and it is going to be very ugly for them. But whoever did this won’t be around for my grandsons and any other future grand kids to worry about.”
I remember nodding my head and hoping he was right. He was only 58 but I thought he was pretty damn old and figured he might have some insight that I didn’t have.
Still I asked him what happens if he is wrong.
“You can’t see that far into the future. You can only go a few years out and even then you don’t know. Other things will happen and we’ll manage them as they come.
You can only play the hand you are dealt.”
I don’t have to close my eyes to hear him say that or all the other expressions he used that I knew by heart already.
But sometimes when I do I swear I can hear him in the other room and I know in a moment he is going to call out and ask me to do something.
And I see him staring back at me from the bed in the hospice, gripping my hand tighter, surprising me again with the strength of it because I had thought the morphine drip had taken him farther away.
So hear we are on the verge of celebrating his 77th birthday, the third consecutive he isn’t around to blow out his own candles.
It is so loud and so…quiet.