When my grandpa died it was the end of my world. Literally, that man was the only thing keeping our family together, without his moral compass it was the clichéd downward spiral of the American fractured family. I saw it coming like a train wreck, powerless to stop it because I was just a boy.
Above that, Grandpa was my father figure. He loved me fiercely. You’re not supposed to have favorites, but I was his favorite. Maybe it was because I was the first grand-baby. And I think it pissed him off to no end that my natural father abandoned my mother, and me, before I was even born. He was also fascinated by my personality. One time he told me, “I like you, Tony. You think before you talk. I don’t even do that, so I guess that means the Good Lord does smile on our family sometimes!”
Then he gave me a taste of his tobacco pipe and I ran to the bathroom and threw up.
When he died from one stroke too many, I was so devastated I crossed that “need to cry” boundary into “numb.” I literally could not cry, and I couldn’t even see beyond my grief to feel guilty about it.
When my first child was born, they handed me the baby because The Wife Unit was so out of it. The birth did not go well and they had to deliver the baby by Cesarean. Then it was just me and the baby.
When a baby is born after the initial “waa waa waa!” they become alert and quiet because their little baby bodies are flush with the hormones that run around during birth. My first-born son would not stop staring at my face. In that one perfect moment, that one little baby-faced moment, I wished Grandpa was there to see his little, beautiful face. Looky here Grandpa. He looks just like us. You and me. Look what we did. Look.
That’s when I cried.