My grandfather was the patriarch of my family. He died yesterday at the age of 99, just a day after his birthday. He was blessed to have been in good health up to the end. At that age the body just gives out, which is what happened to him. He just slowly wound down until he didn’t have anything more to give.
I loved my grandfather. He was a stoic man. He shared little of what he was thinking, but you knew you could always rely on him when you needed him. Growing up I had wished he was a little more warm and fuzzy—all kids want that kindly grandfather type. But what I didn’t get in the way of warmth I got in the way of security. And I never doubted that he loved us, it just took some growing up to realize his style of love was different from what you saw in the movies.
Speaking of movies, I love old Hollywood films. I’m actually pretty obsessed with the past 100 years of pop culture. My grandfather had incredible stories from growing up in New York City in the ‘30s. He would frequent bars I knew in the West Village, or spend summer afternoons on the Island. He was a scratch golfer and caddied at the ripe age of 8 (in 1918) at one of the oldest golf courses in the country (Knollwood in Westchester). As an avid golfer I was thrilled when he gave me some gutta-percha balls he had found on the course way back when. It was exciting to hear his stories because it brought all my backward musings to life, gave them real life context.
After New York, the family moved to Miami in the forties and they would spend summers in New Hampshire where he caddied at a resort. It sounded like a storybook to me, a great old film. Up until the time he entered the nursing home my grandfather maintained our family homestead in North Miami—a little bungalow where he raised his four children. Over the years the house remained the same, as did the modest neighborhood—a rarity in the land of over development. When I’d go to see him it felt just the way it did when I was a kid visiting from North Carolina—a little subtropical haven with fruit trees and spiky grass, lizards and parrots roosting in the eaves.
I’m going to miss my grandfather, but I am so thankful that he died well (just like my grandmother). He may not have led a glamorous life, but he enjoyed the life he had been granted. And it was a good one, a solid, simple good life. Bye-bye, Poppy, see you later!