My Grampie used to do this thing. Every time we’d leave his house, he would follow us outside. He’d watch as we’d load ourselves into the car along with whatever goodies Grammie was sending home with us. We’d pull out of his driveway, and he’d just stand there waving goodbye. It didn’t matter the weather or if it was terribly late at night. He’d stand out there waving. We’d drive away, and I’d watch out the window as his figure would shrink so small until we were far enough that he was no longer in view. All the while he’d be standing there waving. When I was little, I’d imagine he stayed outside until the moment we stepped into our own home. I’d imagine he knew exactly when we made it, and only then would he go back inside. Only then would he stop saying goodbye.
But that didn’t last forever. I got older, and so did my Grampie. Little by little, he stopped doing his thing. The cold got to his joints, so he wouldn’t stay out as long. He’d disappear back into his house before I could turn to look out the window. Then his shoulder started to bother him, and he couldn’t lift his arm up to wave even from the big bay window at the front of his house. Then he’d fall asleep by the time we were leaving. We’d tiptoe down into his den. The TV was blaring, but he’d be sound asleep on the couch. We’d kiss his cheek and slip out the front door without him stirring. Without him waving at all. Eventually, the house became too much for him to care for. He moved in with us, and I thought he’d no longer ever need to say goodbye.
But that’s not true. I lost my Grampie on Thursday, September 15, 2022.
Perhaps all this time, he’s been preparing us for this. He’s shown us that the inevitable can be prolonged. That while our time here seems to have come to an end, we continue seeing each other in our goodbyes.
I see him in the green shed that sits in our backyard. He built it for us when I was little and let me climb up onto its slanted roof with him. He taught me what a carpenter’s pencil was up there. I don’t know why that memory persists.
I see him in my mother’s kitchen. He remodeled the entire room. Broke down walls, built up cabinets, left love in every plank.
I see him in a yellow rain slicker. His infamous one still hangs in his closet. Bright and lively. Impossible to miss.
I see him in the keyring hanging near my door. He pieced together the gadget for me. A tiny flashlight fastened onto an even tinier compass. He loved them both, and I like to think he loved me too.
I see him in my nephew. Energetic and curious. Always on the move.
I see him in his moccasin slippers. Tan and comfortable and perfect.
I see him in the pantry of our basement. Cases and cases of Pepsi Cola. His favorite. They must serve it in heaven, right?
I see him in a hammer, a screwdriver, a wrench. There’s nothing he couldn’t fix.
I see him in the gold class ring that sits in my jewelry box. It’s been sliced open from the time he broke his finger while playing wall ball. His finger swelled so much he had to have the ring cut off. An ugly ring, a good story, no?
I see him in a dollop of whipped cream. He loved the stuff, but it had to be homemade, not from the can.
I see him in a lime tub of O’Keefe’s cream. When you spend your whole life using your hands, it’s the only stuff that works.
I see him in a Kia Soul. It’s silly, but he always loved those funny looking cars.
I see him in a crackling fire. He would build the best ones in his fireplace. We’d roast marshmallows and chestnuts every Christmas Eve. I can remember the smell.
I see him in my friends. It felt like he was everyone’s Grampie. Like everyone loved him and like he had enough love to give it all back.
I see him in a hydrangea bush. He always kept the most beautiful garden full of color and life.
I see him in my sweet cousins. I like to imagine he and his brother reunited someplace anew. Retelling stories and teasing just like they always would.
I see him in a Swiss Army knife. Shiny and compact, he’d pull it out of his pocket and flip open the blade. Open boxes of Frosted Flakes and packages in the mail.
I see him in a pair of blue eyes. His always sparkled with wonder and sincerity and just the right amount of mischief.
I see him in the American flag that hangs in my classroom. He loved his country.
I see him in little white Keds sneakers. He wore them ‘til the very end.
I see him when I close my eyes standing there waving goodbye. And that’s where he’ll stay until he knows I’ve made it home alright. That’s just Grampie’s thing.