I’ve only had one grandpa in my life. My Dad’s father died before I was born, and the hole this has left in my life is something I’ll never be able to fill. But it’s strange that I’ve written about the grandfather I never met more than the grandfather I knew for the first 21 years of my life. And now is the time to correct that.
My mom’s father was a good and kind man. Going over to his house was always fun for my siblings and I. A birthday never went by without he and my Grandma coming over to celebrate with us. I can picture him now as I write this, and I wish that I could say hello to him, and introduce him to my wife and kids. They would have liked to meet him, I’m sure.
But they never had that chance. He made it to 80 years old, and then fell sick in early 1989. I was going into my final year of college at the time, and the world was changing every day. The Soviet Union was coming apart, and the Cubs were pushing toward the playoffs. It was a disorienting time, to say the least.
I visited Grandpa in the nursing home, knowing that the end wasn’t very far away. I told him I loved him, and I wished I had said it more when I was a young kid. I’m sure that I did say it from time to time, but can you ever say it too much? That was one lesson I learned later than I wanted to.
My Grandpa (and there was never any need to distinguish which one he was) died in early October of that year. I remember that because I wanted him to make it to my college graduation, but even if he had he wouldn’t have been able to see it. But he had a good life, and I’m glad that he lives on in my memories, and in my children’s genetic makeup.
I don’t always think of him at this time of year, because funerals and goodbyes are not always happy memories, but as the leaves are falling, and the weather turns cold, and a 32 year-old meets a tragic end on a bicycle in Chicago, I’m reminded that to live as long as he did was a blessing.
I sometimes say that I don’t want to live as long as he did, because he could not get around very well toward the end of his life. And I damn sure don’t want to end up in a nursing home, the way that he did. But, on the other hand, eighty years is longer than most people get, and once it’s over that’s all there is, at least in my way of thinking. When my time is up, whenever that should happen, it would be a fine thing to have a grandchild sit down and write up something about me and my life. I guess I’m just putting that marker out there for future reference some day.
One of the things I like about writing this blog is that I can take my Grandpa, who died without ever knowing what the internet was, and introduce him to the online world. I’m so dedicated to doing this that I will embarrass myself, certainly, as well as my mom, my sister, and my two brothers in order to do it. His name was John Benedict Higgins, and he’s the dapper man in the gray suit above. I don’t know what he would have made of the internet, but as of this moment there’s a record of him on it. Long may his memory endure.