My grandpa died yesterday.
It’s okay; he was old as dirt. My mother called to tell me when I was on the train home from work. I was distracted — on my walk to the train station I had observed a man who was eating deli meats out of a suitcase and wanted to tell her about this connoisseur of cold cuts instead. My mom didn’t seem that interested. I had no idea why; who wouldn’t be interested in a story about a man eating deli meat out of a suitcase? He wished me a happy Tuesday as I walked past — his mouth bursting with ham.
“How about I just call you when you get back home?” she said. She called me later that night and told me what happened.
My grief is not an angry thing — there is no denial or rage. I can’t call it a tragedy. A tragedy strikes you out of the blue and without warning. It’s not a tragedy when someone breaks slowly, moment by moment, and all that is left is a small part of what was once whole.
My grandfather was a good man — a photographer. He was a practical German, which is really the only kind of German there is. He loved Lincoln Logs. When I was young, my sister and I would spend entire afternoons at his house creating cabins out of them. It was the only thing he would let us make: he had a keychain in the shape of an oil lamp that lit up, and he would place it in the center of the cabin, so it glowed softly. I hated it. The only thing I liked to do with Lincoln Logs was to stack them, one on top of the other, until they fell crashing to the floor. I liked to witness the chaos before drifting off into the house in search of other things to destroy.
This story is like so many memories — something I found irritating but have grown fonder over, warped by the passage of time. Its eccentricity is what makes it memorable. Here was a man, so overwhelmingly German, that he could not let a five-year-old child get whimsical with a box of Lincoln Logs. Of course, a practical German would want to build instead of destroy. That’s what my grandpa did — he created a safe, sturdy home for his family and he provided for them.
I’m telling this story now because I never told it to him. He died, and I never told him how much I loved/was irritated by his strict interpretation of Lincoln Log architecture. He knew I loved him, I knew he loved me, but we never really got into the details of it. Love was not a question, but a statement of fact.