by Melissa D
My grandfather died in November of 2013. Almost three months later, I'm feeling a mixture of sadness and guilt. I'm supposed to be planning a vacation for next month, but I'm having a hard time with it because anything travel-related reminds me of Grandpa. After retiring he traveled extensively, visiting many relatives all over the United States in his blue van. When I was 16, he brought me on one of his trips to the NY/NJ/PA area. He'd always lived far away throughout my childhood, and this was really the only quality time I ever got to spend with him. I remember at the time I was majorly into art, especially Salvador Dali. I was president of my school's art club and thought I was going to be artist someday, so even though Grandpa didn't much care for art himself, in order to support my interests he took me to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where we spent hours. At the time I was obsessed with The Beatles, too, and even though he was no fan of rock music he walked with me through Central Park in the awful July heat--he was an 81 year old man, mind you!--to Strawberry Fields, which turned out to be just a stupid plaque. Bless his heart. My mother always talked about how cheap he was during the trip, but to me Grandpa showed that, in his own way, he really was quite generous.
The trip will stay with me for the rest of my life, and though I feel I didn't see or know Grandpa nearly well enough, I'll always appreciate him for the kindness and patience he showed me during those couple weeks. Looking back, I was probably pretty obnoxious to someone of his personality and generation.
In the last few years before Grandpa died, he had been staying in a nursing home 600 miles away. I'd been wanting to visit, but it was so hard to get off work long enough for a visit across the country. I feel so bad now that I hadn't visited him, especially now that my husband and I will finally both get a week off work. I thought about visiting near where his nursing home happened to be.. and I feel horribly guilty. I don't know how often he got visitors. Not many, from what I gather now after his death.
He wrote me sometimes, sent checks sometimes, and was always warm and friendly. He told me to write him when I graduated college, so that he could celebrate. I thought that was sweet of him. But I didn't write for a long time after graduation. Mostly because I didn't know what to say. Here was a man who had been in the Navy, fought in World War II, been through so much and had seen so much in his life.. and I felt I hadn't done as much with my life as everyone, including him, had expected. I didn't want him to know how boring my life was. In retrospect, it would have been better for him to think I'm a boring, mediocre person, than for him to have thought I wasn't thinking of him, that I didn't love him.
I did think about him almost every day, wondering how he was doing, hoping that everyone in PA was taking good care of him.
I wrote him for both his birthday and for Father's Day, telling him how much he meant to me, everything he had taught me. He replied with a check, but no letter, no answers to the questions I had finally had the courage to ask him. This told me his health had declined too much for him to write comfortably. I was too late.
I found, quite by accident, that he had been sick since Spring. I immediately went out looking for a get well card. I spent HOURS looking for the perfect get well card. I never found it. Never sent one.
I was a terrible granddaughter. I hope he knew that I loved him anyway.