… on never, and always


He wrote his own obituary ten years ago (of course he did). Note the ‘fill in the blanks’. When we found it, in his safe after he died, I – of course – welled up. But then I started laughing and couldn’t stop. This was totally him. It made perfect sense.

It’s hard to believe that it’s only been four months since Grampa, The Old Yankee Man, moved on to putter around that Great Garage in the Sky.

Well, on one hand, it’s hard to believe it’s only been four months… but on the other hand it seems like it’s been a really long time.

And I can’t decide if that’s because so many things happen in our hearts and brains when someone we love leaves our world on the particular planet, or if it is because – in that strange and surreal way of grief – that I don’t believe he is really gone.

Like, couldn’t he just be at Walmart?

I mean, the guy was always at Walmart…

But he’s not.

And I know that.

But still…

We are not programmed for ‘forever’, we humans.

The entire concept of ‘never coming back’ is so foreign to us that sometimes I feel like the whole idea slams around in our brains like a bee stuck between the window and the screen… just knowing there is a way out… around, or through, or just on the other side of…

But there isn’t.

And there is no one waiting around to open up the window, offer me a magazine or a paper towel to climb up on, and take me carefully to the freedom.

The freedom from the missing.

Because that’s what it’s all about isn’t it?

The missing.

And it doesn’t matter that he was old or that he had a good and long life.

Those realities are awesome, and I am grateful for them.

But still…

I miss him.

I miss him just being.


It is only very recently that it stopped feel totally strange to set out four plates instead of five…

Eight instead of nine if everyone’s home.

The firsts will be hard… his first birthday without him, Thanksgiving, ‘Family Christmas’ with everyone here…

I’ve thought a lot about us – as in ‘us humans’ – not really being programmed to understand ‘forever’. That it’s a concept beyond our ability to really conceive, and feeds Grief in such a sustaining way.

Grampa will never be at that table again.

I will never be rolling my eyes at him again, as he drives home his points on the virtues of unions, or sneaks into my garage to clean it, or paints something of mine with whatever paint he has left over from his last project.

He will never try to give me money “for a sandwich” – just in case I want to stop for one – when I get on the road, even though I’m nearly fifty years old…

Never is the schoolyard bully of grief. Showing up when we least expect it and demanding our attention and our tears, if not our lunch money.

And because Never is so hard to comprehend – mercurially difficult to pin down – we end up thinking a lot about him. Considering him. Staying up late at night wondering how we’ll deal with him the next day.

But here’s the thing.

If I can’t wrap my brain around Never… well, then I also shouldn’t be capable of embracing Always, right?

I mean, both are absolutes. Ideas without exception. Hard to conceive of as a human.

But…. I can wrap my brain around Always.

I can absolutely do that… I already have.

Because a jelly donut – his favorite, and the ones I’d smuggle into his hospital room, and hide in the way back of his bedside table so the nurses wouldn’t find it?

Jelly donuts will always make me smile.

And that smile will spread across my face and brain, always, when I see something with a date scrawled across it (especially if it is in black sharpie, and has an exclamation point at the end as if someone is screaming at me).

I will always think of him when I see a smear of yellow mustard left on the countertop.

Or a can of WD-40.

Or a late 1940’s era Packard.

Or a little, yellow lab.


The Old Yankee Man will always be in my heart, and my brain and my memories.

No doubt.

No exceptions.


Looks like Always stands up to Never just fine.


Because Never was a bit of a dick.

Thanks for readin’.


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