Thursday, July 06, 2006

happy birthday

Today is my grandfather's birthday. He passed away last November, two days before Thanksgiving. Papa finished the 8th grade, and then left school to go to work. He lied about his age so he could enlist in the Navy, because it was a good job opportunity. He could fix anything, and made beautiful wooden toys in his retirement. He worked for the county highway department for 30 years or so, and every Christmas morning he would make the other snowplow drivers get going earlier than normal so they could get the roads plowed and I wouldn't have to wait so long to open presents.

While we were at the American Folk Art Museum this past weekend, I came across a quilt made by Dorothy Yaffe Frank in Syracuse, NY. The card next to the piece said (in part), "In her last years, Frank was a victim of Alzheimer's disease, but when she was shown the textile that holds details of her life in shimmering threads, she experienced a rare moment of recognition saying, 'I made it... I think it is beautiful.'"

Papa's battle with Alzheimer's was swift and brutal. Before we really knew what was happening, moments of lucidity were gone. I didn't see him in the months before he died; hearing the stories was difficult enough for me to handle. I want to remember and celebrate the hours he spent letting me comb his brush cut (I was easily amused as a child), pushing me in the swing he made in the basement, his pipe, and the last time I saw him, having him tell me that I shouldn't drink coffee while driving (it was too distracting) and certainly shouldn't take those highways. Country roads were much better.

I have so much that I want to say about him, and how he was always so proud of me, but what sums it up is simple: I miss him.

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