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My Grandpa MAG
I can almost see him sitting there. Pink-faced, freckled and partially bald with a peach fuzz of red hair circling his head like the first tufts of hair on an infant. Surrounding him are pieces of the Sunday papers and his favorite coffee mug with the brown lettering spelling BOSS, leaving a faint ring on the lackluster dining table. Placed in front of him is a plate, usually polished clean, but occasionally smudged with egg yolk from when he pushed his English muffin across the plate in a habit I have noticed my father picked up.
I remember his navy blue pants that always seemed too big, his V-neck alligator sweaters and his variety of scaly caps with the signature “McMillan” with its green shamrock and gold claddagh pin. I always looked forward to Sunday visits to Grandma and Grandpa’s.
Memories flood my brain. I was only eleven years old when he died. I was just a kid, but I thought I was so cool, calm and collected. I wasn’t. That day I took refuge at Blue Jay’s Sub Shop with my mother’s cream-colored bike. I sat at a table in the corner ripping a napkin and swirling the red and white straw in my cherry coke. My friends Jen and Todd were like inanimate objects to me. They listened as I rambled on as if I were a senile old bat talking to her cats. “My Grandpa had a heart attack.” I said. For two seconds I felt different. As if I was finally the center of attention and finally someone was listening to my heartache. Then I remembered and I felt lousy again. I wasn’t crying, though. My mother said, “Honey, he’ll be okay. Probably.” Probably was the key word. I went to Blue Jay’s to get away.
At eleven, time meant nothing to me except that if it was dark out I should be home. I dialed my number.
“Mom, how is Grandpa?” I asked.
“Kathleen, come home,” she said, her voice cracking a bit.
“No, he is all right, isn’t he?” It could not be that …
“He died. I’m sorry.” I slammed the phone down, ignored my friends and took a running start onto my bike.
I can never describe how hard it was to get up the steep hill to my house. My legs were like spaghetti and my knuckles were white because I was holding the handlebars so tightly. I never thought I would make it. But, of course, I did. It was like a bad dream where you’re trying to run but your feet won’t move. I didn’t know how hard I was crying until I hit my street and a neighbor asked what was wrong. “He’s dead,” I said. “He’s dead.”
That was the first time someone I loved died, the first time someone wasn’t going to be there the next day or week or year. There would be no more days sitting in the hot white sand next to Grandpa’s beach chair as he joked with his golden-brown, raisin-wrinkled friends; no more mornings when I woke up to find a box of doughnuts waiting for us on the dining table. I would never again hear him laugh or yell or say “for cripes’ sake” as only a good parochial school boy would.
Sometimes I’ll flip through the channels on TV and come upon the show “All In The Family.” My grandpa reminds me of Archie Bunker, that loud person who showed his love in weird ways, but was always there for his family.
As the years pass, I notice my father turning into my grandpa. The way he scratches his head like my grandpa did, the way he clenches his teeth; I have even caught my father saying “for cripes’ sake.” And sometimes when I look in the mirror and my hazel eyes flash a shade of green, I can see Grandpa in me.
There are so many wonderful things about my grandpa that my younger cousins will never know. Every time I see a scaly cap or a weathered beige jacket and tinted glasses or even those funny light blue fisherman caps, I point the person out. “Just like Grandpa,” I say. And I can almost see him. Almost.