When I was much younger I remember being at Grandma and Grandpa’s. There were people every where. There always was. The couch would have three or four aunts sitting on it. The chairs would all be occupied. One uncle would constantly be yelling to shut the door. But with a tad more color to the request. People would be in the kitchen. On the floors. In and out of the house (hence the door shutting request).
Grandpa would be sitting in his chair. Smoking a pipe. Oh to smell that pipe again. Talking with whoever. Patting Grandma on the hind end when she walked by. I saw that more than once. And I take umbrage whenever anyone uses the term “wife beater” to describe a t-shirt that I think of as a Grandpa Shirt.
The house never seemed crowded to me. As small as it was it always seemed big enough to hold who ever showed up.
One day I watched while they passed around a card Grandma or Grandpa had received from a friend. A friend who always hid their signature or initials. I didn’t know this. But I watched as they said to give it to my cousin because he always finds it. They handed it to my younger cousin and sure enough, he found it.
It dawned on me then that there was so much about my grandparents I didn’t know. I wasn’t a part of.
I was fascinated to know there was more.
Over the years when I was there I would watch as my Grandpa interacted with this cousin. I didn’t feel he favored my cousin. Maybe he did, but I didn’t feel bad about it. I could feel something there. Something wonderful. And it was nice. I saw pictures of them fishing and holding up their catch. I would hear them talk about their trips.
When I wrote a story about Grandma and Grandpa he drew a cover picture of their house for the story.
My cousin always seemed so quiet. So serene. I don’t remember him talking much at family gatherings. But maybe I didn’t either.
I have many memories of when Grandpa died. Of standing with my aunt next to his casket and she patted and rubbed his shoulder. I remember the stories being told in the funeral home. I remember Grandma being so happy that so many people were there for Grandpa. I don’t know if ‘happy’ is the right word to use. But she felt he deserved many many people being there for him. And they were.
But the moment I remember more than anything, and that ties my cousin to Grandpa forever in my heart, happened at the cemetery. After the service. After the prayers. After people started to walk away. There were flowers from Grandpa’s casket that people had started to go up and retrieve, one flower per person. I think they were roses.
Off to the side. Not rushing. Waiting patiently for everyone to get the flower they wanted, stood my cousin.
He stood quietly.
My memories get a little foggy here. Because I was so struck by emotion when I saw him there. With his hands clasped together, hanging in front of him. I like to think I went up to him and told him to get a flower. But I might have wanted to, and not said anything.
But I remember him going up, and quietly getting one of the flowers.
And I remember being relieved that he got one.
I know Grandpa’s life was full of wonderful, special and beautiful relationships.
But I can’t think of him without thinking of my cousin. And when I think of my cousin, I think of my Grandpa.
I think it is a wonderful and beautiful thing. A relationship between two people that gives comfort and joy to others. Just knowing it exists.