A few words before you read…this post assumes that you know about my father’s death. If you are new to my story, you can read about it here, here, and here.
Also, I have exceeded my word count with this story and it is truly sentimental. But it is mine and to cut words would be to cut meaning. I just couldn’t do it.
My grandparents stepped in to fill the void left by my father’s death and to offer me a sense of connection to him.
My grandfather, honorable, and upstanding, strong and true, was a leader in the community.
My grandmother, soft and loving, tender and compassionate, taught me to express my feelings, talk when something bothered me, and listen when someone confided in me.
There were no silences, no empty spaces where words should be.
They taught me that happiness was a choice, to see the sunshine and smell the flowers, to cherish my life.
They taught me that I could have more and be more than I ever dreamed.
I spent every weekend with them. Looking back on that time now that I am a mother, I can’t fathom having Katie and Matthew gone every weekend, can’t imagine those days without them.
My mother let me go for their sake…to help ease their pain from the loss of my father.
My grandparents offered me routine…predictability. They were constant and true.
Friday nights were for settling in and entertaining company. Friends or family came to play hands of Bridge and 31, but before they arrived, my grandparents played Spite and Malice with me, teaching me the joy of game play.
On Saturday nights, after supper, baked beans and homemade macaroni and cheese, we settled into the living room, where Lawrence Welk greeted us. Once I made it through the boring polkas, I was rewarded with The Love Boat.
Hands were never idle in my grandparents’ home. As we watched television, my grandmother taught me to knit and crochet, always giving me a task perfectly suited to making me feel both challenged and accomplished.
Before bed, I helped my grandmother roll her hair, then climbed into my bed, in my own room at their home, the sheets ice cold. It’s such a funny thing now to think about. How strange it is that something as simple as a properly made bed can make such a difference at the end of the day. The ritual of peeling those covers back and feeling the crisp, cold linens, inviting you in for your warmth, is a truly magical thing.
Why didn’t I make my bed at home? Why didn’t I realize that I could create that routine for myself?
I would lie in bed on those nights and imagine what it had been like to be my father, their child. They pushed, yet comforted him. They had high standards, yet comforted and encouraged him after a failure.
Sunday mornings were lovely. My grandfather, up before the sun, greeted us as we made our way to the kitchen to collect hugs and my grandmother’s steaming hot coffee. We went back to her bathroom, where I helped remove her hair curlers and place those soft rollers and plastic picks back in their bag. She fluffed and comb her hair and spritz on her perfume.
We ate the same thing every week…thick, greasy bacon and eggs fried it the fresh bacon grease. Biscuits and baked beans from the night before finished our meals.
We dressed for church and drove the short distance to take our seats in the very front, in a pew with a brass plate that bore my father’s name. The bibles in our tiny little chapel, were donated by my grandparents in my father’s memory.
There was something about reaching for and holding one of those bibles that made me feel connected to my father.
These people knew him. They knew my grandparents. And it was one of the very few places that I can remember where I didn’t feel shame…shame of being the child whose father had been murdered.
There, I was accepted and encouraged.
I was hugged and kissed and told a million times over that I was my father’s child through and through, his spitting image.
The relationship that I shared with my grandparents couldn’t have existed if my father had lived…of that I am certain.
With the loss of my father came something so very beautiful and important.
I wouldn’t be me without them.
I welcome concrit on this piece…I feel like the structure should have been different somehow, but my mind just couldn’t pull it together. Every time I write about my grandparents, I’m swept away by my love and memories of them…it’s tough to see things with any perspective. Any suggestions?
This piece is linked up with The Red Dress Club. Our challenge this week was to find beauty in something ugly.