Sometimes grief feels more like empty space. A vague longing for what used to be. It’s a nagging sort of sadness, one that I keep trying to reason away. But reason and grief have never been particularly compatible. So it goes.
My grandmother used to get up before the morning light got strong and bright to make my grandfather’s lunch. He worked at a paper mill, full of chemicals that would eventually make him sick. But back then, my Granddaddy was full of life. Boisterous. Hair combed back neatly. Brut aftershave lingering after he hugged me. I loved him. Very much. It always felt so complete, his love for me. Never lacking in anything. Completely devoid of expectation. Just love, the way love really ought to be.
When I was small, probably about 6 or 7, my grandmother would take my little sister and I to play on the playground just outside the paper mill. It felt special somehow, to be close to granddaddy’s work. Like we were doing our part to support him while he worked hard. Even if he didn’t know we were there. Or maybe he did. Maybe he could always be sure I was close by, loving him real strong. Maybe he could feel that love even inside that big paper mill.
It’s been a long time since I was a little girl. My relationship with my grandfather changed over the years, for complicated reasons. But when I found out he died, the first thing I thought of was that he’d returned again to love—to the man who went to the kitchen each morning to grab his lunch pail, kiss my grandmother goodbye, and tell me he’d see me just a little later on.
See you a little later on, Granddaddy.
*The photo is of my mother & my grandparents, who had the absolute best nicknames for each other: Butch & Snoot.