Saturday, February 02, 2008

The quiet man in the easy chair (updated 2 Feb)

Note: In the interest of posting more personal pieces on this blog, I'm re-posting this, originally written for a 30 January post on Conquistador Instant Leprosy.

I was in middle school when my mom first told me about meeting my Grandpa Clark for the first time. She remembered my dad taking her to his parents' house, and she noticed my grandfather sitting alone in the living room, doing nothing in particular. According to her, even after she was introduced to him, he didn't talk too much. He wasn't unpleasant to her by any means, but he just didn't have a whole lot to say to her, or to anyone else. I remember her saying that she worried a little about him- not because she thought something was amiss, but because she didn't quite understand his reluctance to talk.

Back then, the picture she painted was a sharp contrast to my personal image of him. When I was growing up, he was always cheerful and friendly, always happy to play games or tell jokes or funny stories to us when we visited. He was the sort of grandpa who would always remember my teachers' names, even after I had moved on from their classes, and who would always try to keep tabs on what I was up to in school and in my life. One of my earliest memories of him was when he spent an afternoon with me while my parents attended the wedding of my mom's brother. Normally I would have felt left out, but because I got to spend the day with him I didn't mind.

But as the years passed, I began to see what my mom was talking about. While he livened up when children were around, he was much quieter around adults. I began to see him and my grandmother more infrequently, due in no small part to my allergies that would be set off by the cats they always kept around the house, but at the same time he was just getting harder to talk to as I got older. However, in recent years I began to realize that I was becoming quite a bit like him, and I became much more sympathetic to how he was. I don't think there was anything wrong with him at all- I just think that he was a little more reserved than most, and more reluctant to butt into a conversation he thought didn't particularly concern him. It was just his way, as people used to put it. Maybe being the oldest of nine children in a Depression-era family, he had to mature quickly to help the family make ends meet. Or maybe after having to compete for attention throughout his childhood, he simply relished the chance to keep to himself.

Yet at the same time I missed the Grandpa I grew up with. I think that he felt like he could open up to children because he was able to let his guard down with them in a way he couldn't with adults, and I still remember the glimmer in his eye whenever we would come over to visit. In the past few years, as I began to approach parenting age, I always hoped that I might eventually take my own children to visit him, so that they might catch a glimpse of the same Grandpa who was so important to my own childhood.

Sadly, that wasn't to be. My Grandpa Clark died this morning at age 92 in the hospital, where he had been since checking in with pneumonia this past Friday. He hadn't been well for some years- he was prone to falling asleep in mid-conversation, and he required a walker to help him get around- but that doesn't make it any easier. He was exactly two weeks shy of his birthday, which was the day after mine. This news still hasn't really hit me hard, and I fear that it really won't until my own birthday hits and for the first time in my life I won't have his to look forward to on the following day.

Updated 2 Feb: Well, the situation has gotten even more difficult. We originally had a funeral service scheduled for yesterday, but my Grandma Clark had a serious fall early Friday morning and was sent to the hospital, delaying the service until this coming Friday. It's looking like she'll be all right for now, but I fear what will happen to her in the future, now that she doesn't have him to care for or just to have around the house. Time will tell, I suppose.


Kza said...

My sincerest condolences to you, Paul.

Steve C. said...

Damn, man. My condolences.

James said...

Sorry to hear it. At least he got a lot of living in.

Jason_alley2 said...

I'm really sorry, dude.

Missy Schwartz said...

I'm sorry for you loss and I hope Grandma feels better soon.

Andrew Bemis said...

This is a wonderful tribute to your Grandpa, Paul. Best wishes to your Grandma and your whole family.