Thursday, August 09, 2007

Grandpa C.I.

It's been just a smidge over two years since my Grandpa died. Man, do I miss him. He was funny, smart, charming and I loved him like crazy. I try not to dwell on his passing too much, though, or grief would choke me. But in my day to day life, I occaisionally find him drifting into my mind or in my dreams like a benevolent breeze and I'm transfixed by a memory, like the way his pencil-thin moustache scraped when he kissed me in greeting whenever he saw me.

Recently, I've been helping my parents and my Grandma move into their new home and it's been stirring up a lot of dust and ghosts. It's strange to see my Grandma's house in a state of dishevelment; she's lived there for 47 years and it's always been neat as a pin, except for Grandpa's workshop, of course. When we started the move, I volunteered to pack up his workshop, but I was coaxed away to pack the more essential items first. But I did take some time to document his workshop, which remains pretty much as he left it.

As I took the following photos, I was overcome by an eerieness, a chill. I was certain he would pop out from behind the stairs in the basement, his hair dishevelled and his fingers smudged with grease. It was so strong, that I was relieved I wasn't taken up on the offer to pack up his stuff. Firstly, I wouldn't know where to begin.

What was I to do with all of those cables, strewn like cobwebs? This labyrinth of electric potentiality hangs twisted on the back wall behind the basement stairs. It's volume seems sinister to me. But it's just a bunch of wires, I tell myself.

And what about his workbench? How does one even begin to classify this stuff? Paint, soldering wire, random screws, a geiger counter or whatever that is. It boggles my mind and I am known in my family as a gifted organizer.

Besides, his coffee mug is still sitting on the shelf, like he just left the room to go find some duct tape. I dare not touch anything here, lest I anger his spirit and am attacked by this monstrosity:

I'm not a superstitious person, by nature, but I can't help feeling that disturbing the things in this room would cause some handyman's curse to fall on my head, if not an ancient drill which dangles from the ceiling. Perhaps if we had gone through this stuff very soon after he passed, this room wouldn't seem so heavy with the dust of pall.

But who could face this room that was so much his so soon after he left us? It's too much to bear. I had had quite a few starts while we moved box after lamp after couch after box. My Dad, who was unloading the truck by handing us boxes, turned around with a clear tupperware container that had my Grandpa's burial flag standing up on it's point against the transparent plastic. I wasn't prepared to see that flag in such a casual position, as if it were one of so many towels. As we moved a vanity from my Grandma's spare room, I nearly jumped out of my skin as I caught my own reflection in a mirror, thinking it was an angry ghost.

Though this task of moving was arduous and full of emotional peril, I'm glad I was there to help. I learned that my Grandpa's favorite song was "Somewhere, My Love," from the movie Dr. Zhivago. I saw momentos of his life with my Grandma: 25th anniversary plate, 35th anniversary plate, 50th anniversary clock. And I studied a handmade music box in the shape of a grand piano that tinkled out his favorite song.

A few days later, when we had my Grandma, Mom and Dad settled into their new home, I sat on the couch in the living room, as my family were gathered around the breakfast bar, talking about the new washer and dryer. I saw a glow on my Grandma's face that I haven't seen in years. She was talking about how the dryer worked and what her plans were for vacuuming (she would use her favorite vacuum to spot clean and the house vacuum system for weekly and thorough cleaning. She was lit from within.

We are all so much happier, back in one place. It's different but better. Sure, we miss Grandpa. We miss Gail. But we're together, at last, whole again, home.


  1. This is the first thing I've read this morning. It's beautiful.

  2. Ditto for me.

    I call this "personal archeology", as in when you sort through the physical stuff someone owned and you have to decide what is worthless and should be thrown out, what is valuable and should be kept and displayed in cabinets on shelves, and what should be used 'cuz it's useful.

    'Taint easy, lemmie tell you: I've got shit from mom's death in 1996 that I'm just NOW taking out of boxes 11 years later and wondering what to do w/after moving around from 4 different states.

    As for ghosts, A) that's why I hate mirrors and B) I think Grandpa is OK with you dealing with his stuff after 2 years. I think he's had time to make his own workshop up there in Heaven where the coffee cans that hold the nuts, bolts and screws ne'er rust and where you never have to dig to find that box of missing gumbands you put down here, someplace.

    As for the coffee mug. Either it should go in a place of prominance in your curio cabinet, or you should take it to work and use it in rememberence of him.

    Beautiful words. Did he like beer? We need to have a beer with him in Heaven.

  3. Thank you, Chris. It's been swirling around my mind for a week or two. I'm relieved to finally have it down on paper.

    BO: I like that, personal archaeology. That's what it was to be sure. Let's do have a beer with him in heaven...

  4. It's funny, but I used to wonder why people would leave things untouched for so long after losing someone they loved, but now I get it. It's that last piece of them hanging around. It's been almost three years and I still haven't gone through much of my mom's stuff. Instead of a workshop, it's her sewing room that I'll be handling. I'm not ready yet.

  5. I agree with Chris. After my grandmother passed last year, a friend of mine and his daughter moved in. I kid him about her ghost, but I'm actually glad someone I care about lives, grows and is happy there.

  6. That was beautiful, and quite moving.

  7. That was wonderful, a great tribute to your grandpa.

  8. This is as moving as his eulogy was. I love the pictures of him, especially the first one. He looks like he's checking out your grandma's butt.

  9. What a nice post. I never knew either of my grandfathers, and even though knowing them and losing them would probably hurt like hell, there's still not a day that I don't wish I had some memories of them.

  10. Great post. My grandmother is one of my favorite people and I have some of my best memories from childhood involving her and her cool old house. She is still with us, but in body only. Her mind is completely gone and it certainly is tough to see her in this state, but the good memories make it ok. Happy memories to you.

  11. Great stories about your grandpa, I enjoyed reading them.

  12. Beautiful and moving Flannery.

    I loved Big Orange's 'personal archeology' comment too.