When my mom called to tell me that my grandfather had died, I was multi-tasking. Sitting in my bed in the bay window of my San Francisco apartment with a cat and a computer in my lap. It took me a few seconds too long to realize what she was telling me. I will forever wish that I had been in a clearer and distraction-free headspace to hear her with accuracy. Then again, would it have done any good?
He was almost 94 and he’s been gone exactly two-years. I remember now because he was just two-months shy of his birthday. Not that it would have mattered all that much. He was in an assisted-living facility that took care of him so kindly – but I doubt that birthdays for old guys with Dementia/Alzheimers is on the top of their priority list.
I do remember that I tried not to cry… for my mom. Which is not my norm. Grief has a way of changing your senses. Turning them upside-down and inside-out all under the guise of “getting through it.” She had been with him just a few hours before he left. She held his hand, he told her he was tired… so tired. She gave him permission to go. And so he went.
In a way, he was the love of my life, and I was his. In his eyes, I was perfect. I lived a life of adventure and always came back to tell him about it. We were pen-pals. He wrote to me on a typewriter and frequently reminded me that my job was to always be a bon vivante.
He was a product of the Great Depression. His family had come West after the Oklahoma Land Rush looking for proverbial gold. They ended up living as migrant workers – travelling California’s Central Valley, picking in Filmore, Visalia, Gilroy and Healdsburg. It served him in a way that only he would ever fully realize and also created the patterns that strained future relationships with his first wife (my beloved Granny Poopsie) and his children.
I recognize his head-strong nature in myself. I also recognize that my love of swing-era music, yoga (he studied it in India in the 1940′s!) and lively conversation comes from him. I learned forgiveness firsthand, watching my mother let go of her childhood to pursue a healthy and evolving adult relationship with her dad. Her forgiveness and willingness to start over spawned a friendship between them that humbles me and constantly encourages me to be the kind of friend, daughter and spirit that they each became.
I am forever grateful to be half of a Dodson, for Jim Dodson was just the right sort. I love you. And I miss you so. I’ve got Glenn Miller on the turntables tonight just for you.