As a boy, I loved when my grandfather was around, because nobody would pay such close attention to me as he would. The only thing I didn’t like, was having to go to church–all those long, dry homilies, trying to impart some kind of moral lesson or whatever. But I loved D-dop (that’s what we called him) more than anything–more than video games and freezer pops. I loved that he played Legos with me, that he walked me down the street to feed the ducks, that he’d be waiting to pick me up everyday as soon as school let out. The only thing I didn’t like, again, was having to go to church, but I no doubt enjoyed the breakfasts that followed, especially when I got to sit next to D-dop, which I always made sure of, and which he also always made sure of.
My grandfather taught me a lot of things, most all of them by example. He taught me about being around when people needed you, and not taking things serious that aren’t too big of a deal. He was a man never much in a rush to do anything, except, of course, when it came to church, for which he would arrive at least ten minutes early, every Sunday. He had his pew, my grandfather did. Now, I really didn’t like going to church–if I hadn’t already made that clear–but if that was the only regulation, then I was willing to oblige if that meant I could have my day with D-dop.
But my grandfather, I suppose, beyond anything, taught me how to love a person; like really love a person; to love someone simply they deserve to be loved, and for no reason other than that. Before he died, my grandfather had been married to my grandmother for sixty years. (I can only say that for anyone who knew my grandmother, this is an astonishing statistic.) Through thick and thin, through child-birth and child-death, through road trips across the continent, they were together. And then there was that preposterous amount of affection he poured over his children and grandchildren–unlimited, matchless, and eternal–which is why his agape will always reside in my heart; the memory of the man who loved me just as I am, because I am. It is the fondest memory I have.
My grandfather was the closest thing to Mr. Roger’s, if Mr. Roger’s hadn’t sinned. He was a simple man of simple tastes and love. If only he didn’t have to drag us to church. That was the only part about spending time with him I didn’t like. But he would at least let me play with his watch, or slide me a piece of candy or something. So, there was that.
And then my grandfather died and part of me died with him. The man I loved so much, more than anything, was gone. The pain was all-consuming and inescapable. I cried. But life went on, as life has a way of doing, even when you can’t imagine it without someone. And there it was: a hole. Something was almost certainly missing. Because it seemed, even a year after his passing, that I’d never regained that sense of stability my grandfather had put in me–that constant and genuine outpouring of attention and devotion and love. Where had he gotten that from? Where had he learned to act that way? Why was he such a good person when everybody else–including, and especially, me–seemed interested only in what was going on in their world? If I were to accuse him of anything, I might accuse him of being the perfect man. If only, that is, he didn’t always drag us to church.