Updated: Jun 27, 2021
“Do you love her?"
He laughed. And my grandfather never laughed, so what I mean is he got nervous, half laughed and tried to cover it up with a cough. He didn’t like talking about things that made him feel vulnerable. He made it clear that conversation with him meant competition and that he would win. So we usually spoke about things that made him feel nice. It was easier. And so over the years I stopped asking him questions. Mainly because I didn’t think there was much to ask. But you know, things change when there's a good chance it's the last conversation you'll have.
“Of course.” He looked annoyed.
When I was five my grandfather made me watch a movie about a child psychopath who tries to kill his mother. I hated the movie. I loved my grandfather. I wish I had asked him a little more about love; why he found it so hard to let it show. Why he didn't see how incredible my grandmother was --- how she could raise kids, learn, teach, write and publish all in one breath. Or perhaps how he saw, and why that was the problem. Why maintaining an image mattered more than how he felt about her. Why he chose to be intimidated rather than inspired by her greatness. Why he forgot they were on the same team.
I didn’t spend much time with my other grandparents. The last time I saw them together, my grandfather had slipped his hand between the bars of my grandmother’s bed. She held his hand tight. We had been there for two days and it was the only time she smiled. One look at his smile and I didn’t need to ask him the question. He looked so...content. As if that moment was enough. I just stood there and watched. I didn’t need to ask the question.
How do you love?
I've said goodbye to both my grandfathers. Neither of them loved better than the other. Just differently. One taught me the complications, and the other, that love is simple. One taught me that sometimes I have strange ways of showing people I love them. That I often love in disguise. The other taught me that love doesn’t need a disguise. He taught me the importance of loving when your loved one is leaving...one hospital visit at a time. My grandfathers didn’t have much time. But enough to show me that at the end, love matters, whether I ask the question or not. And that I don’t have to wait until the end to realize just how much it does.