The phone rings this morning, but I’m feeding Nate and I’m not able to pick in time. About an hour later, I check the messages.
“Matt, this is dad, call me as soon as you get this.”
The tone of his voice gives everything away, and I know exactly what I will hear when I return the call: my grandfather has died.
In the days since then, I’ve had grand ideas of writing some eloquent tribute to the man I simply called “Gramps.” But four days and several drafts later, it’s obvious that simply won’t happen. Each version is too long, or over-written, or flippant, or overly serious. Now I’m out of time. I’ve got to help pack up our two kids and load the whole family onto an airplane and head off to a funeral.
No time to tell stories of his ornery but hilarious personality, of his secret generosity to bums like me, of his expert storytelling abilities.
Instead, there’s just enough time to express how disappointed I am that I didn’t get to see him one more time before he passed on. I’m 37. Most people don’t get that much time with their grandparents, so perhaps it’s greedy to want more.
The last time I saw Gramps was just before Christmas last year. We told him that Julie was pregnant. We had hoped to introduce Gramps to Nate and Will. While I knew they would never have a meaningful relationship with Gramps, I liked the idea of the three of them sharing a few moments during the short intersection of their lives.
We had plans to take a four generation picture with Gramps. Nate and Will are likely the only two people of their generation who will pass the Workman name down, so we thought the picture would take on special significance. We bought our plane ticket to visit a few weeks ago. Scheduled arrival: December 28th.
I understand Gramps saw pictures of Nate and Will before he died. I’m told that one of the last times he laughed during his life was while reading the story of Nate and Will’s Halloween costumes. So there’s some comfort in that.
But I still can’t help but wish for a little more. One more visit. One more afternoon spent drinking Pepsi while complaining about the president. One more version of the story of how he and grandma met (there were dozens).
As our family comes together this week, though, we’ll spend our time thankful for the moments we did have. We’ll marvel at all the new babies that have been born since the last time we were all in one place. We’ll tell each other that we need to get together more often, and for reasons other than marriages and funerals. And we’ll tell stories. Gramps loved to tell stories. He had a rotation of about a dozen. On any given visit, you’d be likely to hear about 5 of them.
It is in this way that I most resemble Gramps. I love to tell stories, too. You could say that I’m a professional storyteller now. As we get together and tell his stories again, Gramps will still be with us. And as long as we keep telling them, he will always be with us.