I remember you singing “How Great Thou Art”, with no regard to how off-key you were.
I remember you taking me in the old truck, riding in the front seat to your garden so far from your house, to an electrician job, trying to impress upon me how important being an electrician was.
I remember you smacking my sister once for something she’d done, and me rallying, roaring to her defense. I remember your indignation at my anger, and the stupid silent judgment I held against you, even after my sister stopped talking to me for the wrongs I’d done her.
I remember you telling me about the giant slingshot you made as a child. I remember that you thought of the turn signal first, though you didn’t know – didn’t bother – to patent it.
I remember the first time you told me of what you did during World War II, well after I’d gotten out of the Army myself and gone to fat. I remember the regret in your voice at not being able to fight overseas yourself.
I remember the childhood annoyance at you watching football when I wanted to watch cartoons.
I remember you driving up the hill, out of Morgantown as I rode in the back of the truck, delighted that I didn’t have to sit in the cab and feeling the angles of the road as a purely physical thing.
I remember you explaining that you revved the engine and raced down the hill at an insane speed to “blow the carbon out”. Now I know enough to know that it was a justification, and the thought makes me smile.
I remember the first time I noticed you repeating yourself during the same visit. I remember my older son being exasperated by it, and my patience in trying to explain it to him.
I remember you continually confusing me for a radiologist, even though I’ve never had a medical degree.
I remember you starting so many conversations by saying “Now, you tell me if I’m wrong,” and your patience when you were.
I realized, on the drive to your funeral, that you wouldn’t be sitting in your chair when I came in. That I stalled and delayed, and generally got so damn busy that I wouldn’t ever get to hear you say those things again.
I hugged my grandmother, and asked her how she was, and didn’t believe her for a second when she said that she was doing fine.
Still, I remember.
We are – are in a very literal and real sense – the interactions in our lives. We are the conversations we have, the touches, the screaming, the kisses, the hugs. We are the memories, and the effect we have on people.
So I remember, grandfather, as we hold the funeral service for you. I remember the interactions between our lives. I pass them on, both explicitly and implicitly. You were a part of who shaped me, so your influence spreads, rippling over human consciousness to everyone I’ve spoken to, everyone who has read a word I’ve written.
And so I speak, and I write.
And so it doesn’t matter that your body lies in a coffin.
Because in these words, you still live.
Editorial note: The grandfather figure in “Memories of Light and Sound”, my story in Timeshares, is partially fiction, but partially both of my grandfathers.