Friday, April 1, 2011

Blood Inheritance

Blood inheritance:
Priceless treasures held in trust—
Passed down through cheek bones.

It's when I'm quietest that the boat is really rocking. It's when I fall short of even the ability to write, that I know I've been hit at the core. Life, it seems, will do that at times. All we can do is face the tempest, wait for the rain to pass, the wind to die down, and the happy blue sky to reappear.

My grandfather passed away on March 18, 2011. It was 3:33 in the afternoon. He had been ill for two months, slowly fading from life via mesothelioma. He was 91 years old.

Papa passed away as he had lived, with the same sense of humor and ridiculous fun that characterized everything he did. Up until the day before he died, he was cracking jokes with my family and the last truly coherent thing he ever said to me was to ask, “What’s good in the family?”

Papa’s memory had not been great for years. It was faded thin, like a worn table cloth with holes all through it. Amazingly, with this irregular, spotty pattern, he only remembered the good stuff! Every story he told, every question he asked, everything he commented on was all about love, fun, and the re-telling of honored family stories. It was a pleasure to be around him. Even if I had to hear the same tale over and over again, it was fun to hear him tell it. He was animated when he talked, his eyes going wide, his arms throwing gestures. He loved life while he lived it, and then loved to bring the joy of his adventures back to whomever cared to listen.

Papa was physically big and strong and enjoyed great health for most of his life. When he became sick, they let us know the end would be soon. He lasted longer than we thought. It is my theory that Papa was stubborn. My grandmother, his lover for 72 years, agrees. Papa did not leave this earth until his body became absolutely incapable of supporting life. Only then did he let go. Left to him, he would have lived forever. He loved life and the people he shared it with that much.

My grandmother stood at the head of his bed when Papa passed away. She leaned over and stroked his cheeks while he took a few, last labored breaths. That was the truest and deepest expression of love I have ever seen. Even as tears streamed down her face, she murmured words of comfort to help him pass on. Under her touch, with her whispers in his ears, his face relaxed, and peacefully and easily he let go.

After he had passed away, my grandmother told me something that has fast become a law I will live by. She said, “What your grandfather and I had together was a whole lot of fun. I have always thought that people who don’t have fun are not trying hard enough. You have always got to try, and never quit trying, to make your life fun.”

While I knew him, my grandfather made my life fun. I was not alone; he had an impact on pretty much everyone he met. Google his name, Charlie Metro. The Internet is filled with pictures of his smiling face. Dashing and good looking, strong and charismatic, he left a legacy that I now understand I carry on.


MamaBhavani said...

And again, teary eyed and smiling at the same time. Thank you sweetie for capturing him so beautifully and the sweet moment of his transition.
It was a blessing to be part of that, part of it all. And it continues through you and all the rest of this incredible clan. You're quite wonderful and talented.
LOve you...Mom

Anna said...

That was wonderful. I never met him in person but from all the things your family has said about him I feel I know him. I like the part where your Grandmother talks about having fun in life. That is such a wonderful thing to do.

happy to make said...

I am so pleased that I met him few years ago and experienced what a wonderful person he was. He was in his late eighties but didn't lose his charm..
Thank you Lakshmi for passing on the advice from your grandmother. I will remember this.
Love to you.

Cassandra said...

Lovely, Lakshmi.
I know what you mean about the boat rocking the most when your the quietest. It's been a challenge for me, too.
I really appreciate you taking the time to write this and share it. I had been there all day, it seemed, talking, praying and crying with everyone - and then I had to go and do one pesky, urgent work task and I wasn't there for that actual moment of his passing. I feel like I was there vicariously through all of you who were and I thank you for writing it down in your most eloquent and insightful way.
Now, I suppose it's up to us to try to find a way to have even MORE FUN! :)
I love you!

lakshmi said...

I think it's hard to grieve. It's hard for me at any rate. I have competing emotions--joy, gratitude, deep sadness, deep love, appreciation, regret. Plus, the loss of a loved one through death brings that reality close. I think death is a great game-changer. The inevitability of it makes the living reevaluate what it means to be alive. It has made me look hard at life with the certain knowledge that everything I love most and take for granted is here on a limited ticket—myself included! Death, as horrible and heart-breaking as it can be—may be the very thing that makes us realize how wonderful life truly is.

Thank you for reading this and sharing in a piece of my grieving process. It’s difficult to articulate how I’m feeling, so it comes out in snap-shots like this one, a mixed bag of sadness and joy. But mostly what I feel these days is grateful.

Much love to you all. <3


PS: Thanks Mom for the 'quite wonderful and talented' comment! :)