It had been a particularly cold Easter when my grandfather first expressed his distain of Church services to me. We had been standing in my aunt’s kitchen, a particularly lavish affair of a room, awkwardly glancing at each other. That’s when he blurted it out.
“Your Grandmother made me go to Church this morning. Had an Asian priest. What type of Catholic priest is Asian? I couldn’t understand a damn word he said.” I couldn’t help but laugh. I’m sure there are more than a few people that will point out how discriminatory he was being, or how awful of a comment it was – but there, in that moment, it was fucking hilarious. There we were, surrounded by our prim and proper family, a whole salmon, a pitcher of sangria and an assortment of side dishes, and there was Grandpa, spouting off about Asian priests and sermons. He was really the only family member on that side that ever understood me, understood what made me tick and think and wonder. The rest of the family would be talking about the latest pop star, but Grandpa and I would be tucked away at a table, talking about the mating rituals of the bonobo chimpanzee.
We buried Grandpa last Thursday. My mother and her sisters (Grandpa had 6 girls, despite his best efforts to have a son) did their best to console my grandmother – the woman who had been married to my grandfather for 64 years. They had met when she was 16. He had asked her to marry him…and she had said no. Three times. I guess the fourth time was the lucky one, because when she was 20 they married and got right to work on having children. My grandmother never had any problem telling my grandfather where to go and what to do with his opinions. He would have done anything for her – would have made anything happen for her. Now she struggles.
As I sat in an unfamiliar church surrounded by family – the people who I’m supposed to be the closest to and yet seem the farthest away from, I couldn’t help but think about how much Grandpa would have hated it. He wouldn’t have wanted a big fancy ceremony and a bunch of flowers and people crying over him. He would have wanted a pint and a football game to watch. Funerals are for the living.
And there I was contemplating all of this when the priest took the pulpit.
He was Asian. And very difficult to understand. God does have a sense of humor.
I should be saddened by Grandpa’s passing – and I am, in a way. I am saddened that my grandmother – a strong woman – has been reduced to hiding in her house and barely eating. I am saddened that my mother is unsure how to cope with this tragedy, and that my aunts and their husbands are equally confused. I am saddened by the suffering that my grandfather endured in the months before his death due to the cancer that wracked his body - that completely decimated him to the point where he told the doctors to sedate him until he died. I am saddened by that.
But I am joyful that he is no longer in pain. I am joyful that he was able to find some control over how and when he went, despite being riddled with a disease that tragically claims so very many lives.
And so, I refuse to say goodbye to my grandfather. For me, this is simply a parting of ways until I can join him (hopefully not for a very many years).
I love you Grandpa, and I miss you.