There has been a significant lack of grandfathers in my life, both as a child and for my children. I only knew one grandfather, my mother's dad. He was a wonderful guy - made us laugh every time we saw him, yet strict in his own way. He was a terrific storyteller, even though truth was a rare visitor to his stories. He sketched great cartoons and still life pictures. He bounced all three of us on his leg, saying we were riding a horse. That must have been when we were very small, and he was very strong! Rarely saw him without a suit and tie. He had long since left the synagogue side of his Jewish life, ever since he lost all his money and the local shul wouldn't give him any more honors at the synagogue. My grandmother would go to services all day, and Grandpa would dress in a suit and tie….and a hat…and sit like that all day, waiting for her to come home. He fasted, but I think the only time he was in a synagogue again was at our Bat Mitzvahs. He was, as I said, wonderful.
I never knew my father's father; neither did my mother. He had died when dad was in the army, and was gone ten years by the time my parents got married. I have one picture of him.
Our children never knew my dad. He died a year after I was married; one day he went to work, and never came home. He would have made a terrific grandpa - my sisters had some experience with that, since their sons were born before my daughter, but even they were pretty young when Dad died. The oldest was four. Our daughter is named for him. My father-in-law was a great guy. He was quiet, but funny, incredibly handy, and absolutely joyous around his grandchildren. Again, my kids missed out on the grandpa-lottery. He got sick when my girls were very young, and died when they were four and three. The older one remembers putting pieces of chocolate on his pillow, like at a fancy hotel, when we came to visit at the hospital. Our son is named for him.
Which brings me to today. About 20 years ago, my mother started spending time with a man she volunteers with at the local hospital. She has insisted for all those 20 years that they have not been dating. To my mind, when you hold half a dozen theater subscriptions together, have dinner during the week and grab a movie every now and then…..well, that's dating. She never looked for a replacement for my father. Still, he has been a good companion for my mother. He has been at all the family celebrations, holiday dinners, and even shows up in a few pictures here and there.
And now he's moving across the country to be with his son. He's been sick here and there a bit, and "the boys" want him near them. It makes perfect sense, but it's not perfect. There will be a huge hole in my mother's theater schedule…and her life.
There will be a big hole in our kids' lives, too, for once again, the elderly man at our holiday tables, will be gone. As our older daughter said yesterday, he's the closest thing she's had to a grandpa in her life. True.
I had all three of my grandparents alive and well, into my 30s. I was very lucky. There's one picture of my grandmother holding my firstborn. My kids have hit the jackpot when it came to grandmas. But Grandpas? Well, I only wish they have fathers-in-law that stick around for a long, long time and they get to see how much fun a great grandpa is.