My Grandpa Gene was my favorite. Just as parents aren’t supposed to have favorite children, I suppose children shouldn’t have favorite grandparents. But I did.
I loved all my grandparents. I still do, very much, but Grandpa Gene is the one who I remember with the most clarity, the memories vibrant and vivid and bright.
Gene was a big man, with large hands and feet, and a gruff demeanor; a gentle giant with his tiny wife and daughter, and his two tinier grandchildren. He made large pots of chili, loved to fish and hunt and watch football. He smoked Parliaments and read dirty joke books in the bathroom off the kitchen. He managed a cold storage in our town, he served as a fireman and an alderman. He gave me a Jolly Green Giant doll he received from the Green Giant people.
I wish I still had that doll. It smelled like him.
This big man would allow my brother and I to climb in his lap. We would lay across the arms of the armchair in the den, and he would rub our backs with one large hand. No masseuse can compete with those back rubs.
When I was ten, he died. He had just turned seventy.
Grandpa Gene was one of six relatives we lost over the course of a year and a half. My Grandma Clark was another (see her quilt here). His was the first funeral I attended. The monsignor told funny stories in the eulogy. I sat with my parents and my Nonie in the front pew on the right side of the aisle in St. Patrick’s Church, awash in tears, baffled and offended that anyone could find anything funny about the loss of Grandpa Gene.
It has been almost forty years since Grandpa Gene left us and there is still nothing funny about this loss. I wept then. I weep today.
His color was blue. That seems fitting. My tears are blue too.
Is there someone you’ve lost for whom you still grieve, even though it’s been decades?