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Jun 23

Lunch with Grandpa

I went to my hometown yesterday.  I lived for the first thirty years of my life in a small town about forty five minutes east of Worcester.  Maynard was a part of me, my parents had both grown up there, my great grandfather was a fire chief, my grandfather worked at the high school.  Everyone knew someone in my family, and at times, it was hard to define my identity outside of my relationship to others.  I was forever known as Mandi’s older sister, or Mary’s daughter, or Earl’s granddaughter, or Cathy’s niece.

But since moving… I only seem to go back now for funerals.   I was struck by how pretty Maynard is.  It’s just genuinely a pretty little town.  The hills are all gentle (as compared to some of the incredibly steep hills that Worcester has), the schools are all beautiful and surrounded by grass. The sidewalks were all big, the streets were wide, and it was such a beautiful day.

Even with all of the prettiness, I was still… sad.  Just sad.  I was there for another funeral, and the day reminded me so much of the day my grandfather died.  He died four years ago this August.  I drove down to Emerson Hospital to see him, but was too late.  He had died when I was in the elevator going up to the fourth floor.   In the end, he was my connection to Maynard.   And he’s gone.

I drove down, on roads that I had learned to drive on.  Past houses I used to babysit at, down streets that my friends lived on.  Past ice cream stands and stores and little roadside farms that I had visited all the time.  Past my elementary school, my high school, the store I worked at when I was in high school.  I drove to the cemetery, of course.  Down the hill, next to the pond, and pulled up alongside the headstone.  I got out of the car, and immediately burst into tears.

I don’t like to think of him as gone.  I suppose, on a real level, I never really processed that he was gone.  I think of him as traveling.  Somewhere overseas, Europe.  I miss him, but I think he’s happy, doing what he loved.   With my grandmother.   But he’s not.  And seeing his headstone there was harder than I anticipated it would be.  It was more than just the loss of my grandfather – I think yesterday, I was mourning the loss of who I used to be.  Thinking about how very much things have changed, and how so much of what I used to value is no longer a part of who I am.

I’m incredibly different now, in so many ways.  The past ten years have brought enormous changes in my life.  A husband, three children, a new town, a new religion.  A dramatically different way of defining myself.  There are very few people left who define me by my relation to my siblings and parents.  I’m Mrs. Jessie’s Mom, or Sam’s mom, or Marc’s Beautiful Wife (Julie doesn’t have any friends yet who aren’t also close family friends – so I’m not known as Julie’s mom, but I know it’ll come).  And more and more, I’m known as myself.  A volunteer, a friend, a writer.

After going to the funeral, I got coffee.  Of course.  And lunch, and it occurred to me that there was no better place to have it then to have it with my grandfather.   I took my coffee and my lunch, and I parked in the shade.  I pulled out my book, because nobody loved reading like my grandfather did.  I felt so much better, being there.   And I realized that even though I was different, even though I could barely recognize my life now when I remembered what my life had been like, I was still his granddaughter.  I was still the girl who loved to read a book next to him, and he would have been proud of the changes.   He used to tell me that he wanted to dance at Sam’s bar mitzvah, and I know that who I am now would have made him happy.  He wanted me happy.  He wanted me to be who I am.  He saw this potential me, long before I did.

I haven’t lost who I used to be.  I’ve just added to it.

And I really need to start visiting my hometown for more than just funerals.  Because after lunch with my grandfather, I stopped at Ericson’s for ice cream, and it was awesome.

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