I don’t choose these things. They just happen. I didn’t mean to choose Natalie Merchant’s “Beloved Wife” as the song I’ll always associate with you. It just happened. Perhaps it’s not the most manly-man song out there, but it’s a testament to the way you loved her. Without terms, seemingly boundless, and timeless. Like a gentleman, a class act, the kind you don’t see much anymore. A real mensch. You kept a Polariod photo of her on your desk. I’d look at it and think, this really isn’t a good picture of her. I remembered her prettier and had seen much warmer pictures, where her smile was softer. You looked at her photo with a love so boundless, so powerful, it almost seemed casual. You lived and loved her every day.
On the day she died, at her grave, you shoveled dirt and covered her coffin and told her you’d be with her soon. “My love. My Bea.” And you missed her every single morning, all your afternoons, and in the dark of night. For many years. You left a legacy far more valuable than money. You set an example on how to love your mate. “Never expect perfection, and always forgive,” you told me the last time I saw you. I asked you if you had regrets. “Regrets?” you repeated, leaning nearer to make sure you’d heard it right. “No. I have no regrets. I just don’t see why the good Lord is keeping me here.” And I understood. “I tell ya, I’m bored out of my mind, Steph.” Oh, Grandpa, I miss you. I really do.
I’ve heard that everyone attends their own funeral. Not just their body, but that you are there to watch the procession, to see the people of your life, to hear the eulogy. You passed away in your sleep yesterday in your own home, in the same building you’d built a life in, raising two sons, and Beverly. Sometimes I’d sleep there, in that room where you’d mounted a swordfish. You’d read to me from books where you’d had them insert my name, so Stephanie Tara was the main character tobogganing down mountains. And later in life, when I found out what Josh had done, you told me it would be okay. That these things work out. That the good Lord would protect me. Then you said, “you know I’ve always got a spare room. You’re always welcome here, dear.” Today was your funeral. It had been scheduled for Thursday but because of the Jewish holidays, it was moved to today. I couldn’t be there. My body couldn’t be there. We lit a candle here and I said a prayer. Phil said he’d miss you. It was funny to hear him call you Sam. I don’t know why. I guess ’cause you’re Grandpa, not Sam.
When we spoke, even toward the very end, you’d ask after Phil and the kids. “Abby’s my favorite,” you said. “A mother should have a little girl. Now tell me, how’s my Abby?” I’m so glad you got to meet them and hold them and love that they were mine, and part of you. I’m going to make Poppa send Abigail flowers on Valentine’s Day the way you sent them to me. “I’ll always be your Valentine, sweetheart,” you’d tell me when I called to thank you. You made me feel less alone. And I always knew how proud you were of me. “You never asked for help. You did it all on your own, without pulling strings or calling in favors. And I’m proud of ya’, and your father–well, I couldn’t ask for a better son. He really is the best.” I know, I said. And of course I do. He’s still my best friend. And you helped raise him, showed him what it was to take care of a family. To provide for a family.
I know you were ready. It is sad though to lose. And for me, sad to lose someone who always championed my efforts, offered support and encouragement. Who told me every step of the way how proud he was of me, even in my least proud moments. You always offered such profound advice to me and reminded me to take a step outside myself and whatever drama I might be facing. Because you’d been through so much, seen so much, joy and sorrow… you reminded me of my blessings, to express gratitude along the way, and to try not to be too rigid when thinking of “should”s. To have faith. It’s warming to think of you and how much you loved me. Love me. I’ll now bring you to mind, as I always bring Grandma around. When Lucas grabs at the rock, I smile and think of her. Tomorrow, when he gets an image-guided LP, I hope you’ll watch over him. I told him today, that secretly he was also named after you. Beckett. It starts with a B because of Grandma, but Samuel Beckett was also a writer. See, huh? I can be tricky, too.
The last time we spoke you said, “I’m ready to be with your grandmother. I miss her so much.” So I hope you’re with her now and can somehow hear me play for you this song, your song, about the way you loved. Thank you for my life, my education, for sending Vernell, and for all the life lessons you shared. For setting a beautiful example of a beautiful life.