Tag Archives: missing your grandpa

“He would have loved you.”

We lost my grandpa suddenly, five years ago today. My husband James never met him.

“He would have loved you.”

I tell him that sometimes. When we’re watching baseball, when he’s curled up quietly reading a book, when he starts singing made-up songs, when he peels open a banana, when he falls asleep in the armchair watching something he really loves.

I tell him that because it’s easier than saying, “I wish he had had the chance. I wish he had known you. I wish he had just one shared moment with you in my mom’s dimmed kitchen after dinner, hands wrapped around mugs on the table, quietly conversing about the world.”

My husband, he doesn’t know what he missed. How can you love someone you never met? If he’d come into my life a year earlier, he would’ve maybe had the chance. Maybe.

And so I look at it with a grateful heart. Less than 9 months after my grandpa died, this blonde-haired blue-eyed Italian-Irish boy parked outside the Cheesecake Factory and walked me inside. He reminded me about the love of baseball, the agony of 9 innings, of hard years and sticking with your team. He taught me that quiet can mean thoughtful. That words can be measured.

My grandfather lived three blocks from my aunt’s house. He showed up every day. In his actions and on their doorstep. He taught me what it means to give yourself to your family. And then, something changed, and he didn’t anymore. But we don’t remember him that way. We remember how he was for most of his life, how he loved his grandkids, the simple man he was.

I remember that cold first day of December, sitting on my knees with the kids, looking up at that video playing. Photo after photo. Song after song. When you’re the first grandkid, you see yourself over and over in those eulogy videos.

I cried the loudest in that room packed with people I hadn’t seen in years. In those photos, I could see all the time I’d had with him, all the things we’d done together, and how in the end it never felt like enough. You’re never ready for it to be over.

And so my husband shows me that sometimes God knows you’re hurting and He hands you a little piece of someone else. You catch yourself looking at your husband and remembering with sweetness what you once had, aching at the same time because you know they would’ve shared something special together.

You remember that quiet small actions matter. Love matters. Family matters. Showing up matters. On your doorstep or in your phone logs. However you can. However they need.

We’re broken, Pink. We’re full on broken.

ps i love you mailbox

[part one]

Some days, I wonder if you can send Christmas cards to heaven. Mine are sitting shrink wrapped on my coffee table, ready to be signed, sealed & delivered.

I’m yours. I hope you know that. I am yours.

I’d like to send him a Christmas card so he knows where to find me now, amidst all the clutter & chaos of shoppers & savings & sweaters & red Starbucks cups.

I am here.

I want to believe he cares: I have newness in my life brighter than the evergreen tree in Rockefeller Plaza and he cares. Right? Right? Of course he cares.

Instead, I am the person he could learn to love again if Pink pinned him up against a wall and said, “Come here. Come here and just give me a reason, just a little one’s enough, why you stopped loving me?”

We’re broken, Pink. We’re full on broken.

[part two]

I love sending Christmas cards. In the weeks after the mailman unloads the blue express drop box across the street from my apartment, I imagine them being stuffed into mail crates and the backs of trucks & vans before finally, finally landing in someone’s hands.

Most of the people I send Christmas cards to don’t spot me squeezing oranges in the grocery store on Saturday mornings. They haven’t watched my hair grow out. They don’t know where I work or what socks I wear when the temperature dips too deep.

But they loved me once. We once swapped stories in my kitchen with the light dimmed over the table. We once dished ice cream into bowls or screamed at football games or danced on the bay window in my family room.

We knew each other then. And so they get a Christmas card.

 [part three]

This holiday season always hits me like the only house in the neighborhood without Christmas lights or a fir tree in the family room. It hits me like a family room without a family.

For some, it’s time for togetherness. For me, the loneliness of loss starts to sync itself up with my iPhone calendar: one funeral here, another one there. Let me pencil you in as soon as I’m done crunching the cemetery gravel beneath my heels.

In the weeks between Thanksgiving & Christmas, I write love letters to strangers. One organization always warms my heart: More Love Letters. This year, I’ll spend 12 days finding the words for people who need it most. Like me, they’ve lost something or someone or some hope at a time when the bright lights are dotting their cul-de-sacs and stringing their streets.

It’s my way of sending them a Christmas card. Maybe, maybe I can’t ship one to heaven. He won’t have my return address printed and propped up on his mantel.

He can find me here. He can find me if he wants to.

I hope he knows, deep down, that I’m still his. And on days like today, when the jolly songs start playing & the lines at Target start growing, I remember him.

I remember him & know, sure as ever, that even if he’ll never step foot inside my new life, he can find me any time he wants.