I have written quite a few letters recently. Letters I will never send. Letters to you, to him, to past me, to future me, to possible aliens. A letter to the customer who made me cry, and one to the customer who brought tears to my eyes by sharing beautiful, hopeful outlook on life.
You have been gone for one month and one day now. Yesterday was especially difficult as I thought about that awful phone call that started my day, one month ago. I think of you often. I think of you when I look into the mirror and a set of large eyes peering above big cheeks returns my gaze. I carry you constantly on the chain that never leaves my neck.
The day before you passed, J asked me what my favourite possession was, and I said that it was my portrait necklace, the one you brought back from Croatia. I would like you to know that I don’t think I could express how important this little trinket of gold and coral means to me. It rests on my chest, above my heart that pumps the blood that bears your name and I think of your story and your parents and your successes and your faults and how you worked to make your name well- loved and respected.
Once you forgot that I carry your name. “What name do I write on the check?” you asked me. “Milan,” I responded before retreating to the bathroom and crying. I forgot that I am the anomaly of the family and that if I had been born in the same circumstances as all of your other grandchildren, you wouldn’t have needed to ask. Nonetheless, every time I write my full name—which is every day between school and work—I feel proud to have it as a part of my identity.
Because of the sheer gusto and resolve with which you lived life, much of my strength and comfort comes from thoughts of you. Even if I never told you, many of my actions had an afterthought of “I think grandpa would be proud of me if he knew this” and many of my dreams have been inspired, or seem possible to attain, because of you. I am not sure I ever played with more intensity than during the games you showed up to, as if to show you I got my athletic skills from you. I liked bragging about my accomplishments to you; I always wanted to have something new to present to you to make you proud of me.
I think you would be a little disappointed with me at the moment. See, I have drank more coffee in my life in the past couple weeks than I ever have, and my teeth are starting to show a little. I also have a cavity on my molar. But tell me, how am I supposed to sit in another doctor’s chair now that you are gone? You would soften my fear with your kind blue eyes and gentle jokes and special treatment (although I know you treated every patient with special treatment, and that is why so many showed up at your funeral).
But I’d like to tell you why I have had so much coffee- I haven’t slept too much since you have been gone. See, Gramps, I’m a little heart- broken at the moment. More than that… it’s tremendous really. I wish you were here to ruffle my hair like you always did and tell me to toughen up because I deserve happiness and there are plenty of fish in the sea. That’s what mom said how you handled her heartache.
I remember being so mad at you when you said it was time to leave our visit when mom was in rehab. I also remember finding comfort in your strong, stern presence.
I think we are kindred spirits. I learned the strength in silence from you. I think we were both hardened by life early on, and cope in similar ways. I learned the concept of working hard and playing hard. I learned some valuable lessons from your mistakes. I learned the importance of generosity, for I truly think you are the most generous person I will have the pleasure of knowing.
Thank you for all of the things you did for us, even that excruciating year of dialysis so we could have more time with you. Thank you for taking your inappropriate humour to the grave and making us all laugh through the tears on that sad, grey day. I miss you, grandpa. I can’t say that I am looking forward to the holiday season without you being there as the patriarch of the family. I will miss finding each other, each seeking solace from the commotion, in the room that everyone else has migrated from. I’ll miss you telling me of how you barely graduated high school with a 1.9 GPA how the marines kicked your ass and what tattoos you got and how you found balance between your rebellious side and your disciplined side. I’ll miss comfortable sitting in silence with you. I’ll miss the smell of your leather jacket.
I love you always,