Skip to main content

Grief Is a Heavy Blanket

As I write this, my grandfather is dying. The family is gathered around him to say goodbye.

Grandpa has lived 97 years of a life filled with hard work, personal pride, admirable style, strength of will, serious accomplishments, good old-fashioned homesteader skills, World War II medals, dazzling stunts--horsemanship and roller skate tricks and tying cherry stems into knots in his mouth--survival through unspeakable tragedies and traumas, and a marriage of nearly 65 years characterized by a rarely witnessed level of mutual devotion with my grandmother.

Also meanness. I've never known anybody as mean as my grandpa could be. He was a master of shocking, heart-stopping, shame-as-a-weapon emotional cruelty, focused mainly upon his children. It took a break sometimes, and laughter and tenderness slipped through, but it never went away or even retreated to a safe distance. I think punishment was a love language of his. I think it was a protective charm, a blessing marked with blood, a family heirloom. I've heard the legends of his own father, twice as mean as Grandpa, a German butcher who cooked for American troops in World War I. A man other Germans thought of as mean, who carried a last name that wasn't German at all, a name that hints at an earlier family migration from somewhere colder and meaner than Germany, a desperate flight from a persecution that has taken a couple of centuries to escape.

Grandpa can't be mean anymore, and neither can the rest of us, who learned it from him.

Two days ago, I got the call that it was time, and I went and sat by my grandfather's side. My grandmother has set out two rows of chairs on either side of his bed so that he can be surrounded by everyone who comes by to love him, now that we can, without any fear or reservation. All five of my grandfather's children are here. We are gathered around him in overlapping shifts. Sometimes, for a few seconds, he can open his eyes and see us all around.

I wanted to say something. I wanted to touch his handsome silver hair. But I couldn't say anything, and that felt right, because he can't hear anyway. And I didn't want to wake him up and make him feel the pain of the injury that is ushering him out. So we all sat with each other and spoke gently to each other and made a hum of warm presence and woven conversation about anything that floated through our minds. From our bodies grew that full house aura, that press of grownups close together talking in hushed tones that lulls little children to sleep in the evening at a big family gathering.

Grandpa has five children, my mother and two aunts and two uncles. Each one of them is talented and intelligent and generous in their own particular ways. And also strange and also broken. And they all know how to push each other's buttons in the ways only siblings can. They know the exact locations of each other's open wounds and the scars that never stopped hurting.

This is the first time I've been with all of them, and everyone is gentle together. Nobody has the will for anything but care.

Our grief is a heavy blanket. It is a cloud, gray and wet and chilly, and at the same time it is a thick comforter, warm and soft and weighted with memory. It's a dream feeling. It's a prenatal hope.

I am sleep-drunk with it. I could sleep for twelve hours a night if my cat would let me.

I love my family. I love my grandfather, more perfectly now than ever. Together, we are drifting toward peace.


Popular posts from this blog

35 Great Things About Turning 35

The prime of life starts at 35! It's the best-kept secret from younger people, but your 35th birthday is a major cause for celebration. For mine, I have made my own listicle of 35 reasons why experts agree that 35 is the best age to be:
You get to say, "I'm 35." The number 35 carries so much more gravitas than 30, but you're only a few years older. At 34, I've started fudging my age--by adding a year. People automatically take me seriously, and if they don't, at least they tell me I look young for my age. (Eye roll, hair toss, "whatever.")  35-year-olds DGAF. Inner chill reaches new heights at 35. Despite its #2 status on this list, it's the #1 response I hear about what's best about hitting 35. My gorgeous friend Nerlie was beautiful and resilient and wise beyond her years in high school, but now, at age 35, she gets to fully enjoy being herself on her own terms. She writes,  "I've survived so much that I don't waste time o…

A Bad Romance Starring Till Lindemann, Sophia Thomalla, Gavin Rossdale, Simone Thomalla, Sven Martinek, Andy LaPlegua, and Leila Lowfire

November 2018 Update: Sophia is settled in with Gavin a young soccer player (like mother like daughter) now, I guess, and Till is spending time with 36-year-old (hell yeah, thank you, sir) Ukrainian singer Svetlana Loboda. He is either her latest babydaddy or doing her the favor of bearding as such (not that he's great with beards, but we don't mind--we know how much he loves pregnant and lactating ladies) to help her keep some distance from her crazy ex who cuts his wrists over her. The juice continues...

To misquote Gaga, "I don't speak German, but I can look at foreign tabloids and guess what's going on if you like."

I guess it would be more professional and ladylike for me to be above this sordid celebrity gossip, but I'm not. I'm so not.

So let's see if I've got this straight. From what I gather...

Metalgod Till Lindemann, 54, and model Sophia Thomalla, 27 (upper left) recently exited a five-year, on-off, opennish relationship, which bega…

Ich Liebe Rammstein: Richard

Richard Z. Kruspe
Richard Zven Kruspe is Rammstein's founding father, lead guitarist, and natural frontman.

***IMPORTANT UPDATE, 2018***: Richard has immortalized his lifelong bromance with Till in a tender duet about their friendship, "Let's Go" by Richard's side band Emigrate. Till sings words such as "Zwei Herzen in mir schlagen" with sincerity and I think I am now deceased.

He's gregarious, well-spoken in both German and English, a professional showman, and an enthusiastic promoter for the band. In German, his name is pronounced "REE-kard," and in Germanglish, "Reeshard," or "Reesh" for short. Richard is sexy, and he knows it. To many Rammstein fans, he is the cuuuuuuute one. His Facebook page would have you believe it.

Legend has it that Richard has a lovechild with lead singer Till Lindeman. The myth is based in complicated facts and figures, including one unconventional love triangle. Circa 1990, Richard and Till …