I am very lucky. Very few people close to me have passed away. My grandmother passed away at the age of 96, and her sister at the age of 102, probably to out-do her. Last summer I lost my grandmother-in-law, and in February I lost a close cousin-in-law. And for the first time in my life, I lost an internet friend last week. I grieved for them as I was permitted to grieve by them, meaning their lives and wishes dictated how I grieved for them. One person over which I never had the chance to grieve was my paternal grandfather, for he died before I was born. So, my letter will be to him.
I never knew you. You were gone before I came into the world, but that is no excuse for being remiss about knowing you. Growing up, I never asked about, because no one spoke about you. You were a shadowy figure in the background. I knew you were there, but to me, you were as solid as smoke. When I was young, I asked grandma about you, only to be rebuffed or ignored. So I kept my ignorance, because it was easy.
And then one Christmas I found out you had served time in prison, and that was enough to spur my curiosity. I learned that, through a grave mistake, you tried to keep your family together, and that it was one-sided. I learned you had a talent for turning pieces of wood into art. I learned you found a woman who would love and keep you and wait for you. And I learned that when you died, you weren’t alone.
I’m sorry I haven’t learned enough, but I promise to keep asking and finding out about our ties, flaws and all.
Your oldest granddaughter.