Since the day I finished it the first time back in 1992, it has remained my favorite. I am now reading for probably the 4th time since then, (I assure you there is not another book that I have ever read that many times) and the other day, something jumped out at me. It got me thinking... a lot. Mostly about my grandfather and the relationship we had. It was magic. Have you ever met someone, and just immediately had a special bond with that person? You don't really understand why you are closer to that person than someone else, but you almost feel like you have always been friends. As if you met somewhere before, or in another life.
I used to love it when I was a little girl, (and I have to admit I still like to hear it) when people would tell me that my grandfather was different before I was born. You see, I was the only girl among the grandchildren, which came with it a lot of expectations from some of the women in my family. I was the youngest for a while too. I have 8 cousins and they are all boys. I didn't ever know the papa who only shook hands and remained stoic and somewhat uninvolved. The papa who didn't show a lot of affection was not someone I ever met.
The man I knew gave the best hugs, and loved to play with me. He didn't shake my hand, he laughed at my silly jokes, he read me stories, he climbed on the monkey bars with me, he took me swimming, and let me push him in to the water. He would sit and talk to me, and often confide in me what he didn't in anyone else. He held my hand anytime I wanted to, and he would take me with him to run errands and always bought me an ice cream cone. He came to see me when I was in chorus, and came to every play I did, even if he hated the play, and he always brought me flowers and gave them to me after a show. He was proud of me, and loved me so much. And trust me, the feeling was mutual. He was my best friend all growing up. No one even came close to my papa. He made me things with his own two hands, and they were always beautiful. He drove from California to Utah when I got married, (which is saying a lot, because he hated sitting in a car for long periods of time... not to mention that Utah has weak beer) and what was in the trunk of his car? Fresh California strawberries... because I couldn't have just any old Utah crap strawberries at my wedding, and the best of all was that it was his idea. He did it because he loved me and wanted my day to be special.
10 years ago, I was moving to Utah from California, and he made me a large batch of my favorite cookies for the trip. He even wrote my name in bubble letters on a post-it that he put on the bag... I still have it, and it still brings tears to my eyes when I look at it.
In 1 month exactly, it will be 6 years since the day that I said goodbye to him for the last time. I was there when he left this earth. He left at 5:30 in the morning, and I spent the entire night before with him all by myself. He was in a coma, but it didn't stop us from bonding. He knew I was there, and I knew he could hear what I was saying. I had a few very precious and very spiritual experiences with him that night... Experiences that when I tried to explain them were lost on my family. I just held his hand and talked to him, and when I would stop talking, I would look at him, and his eyes told me he was growing weary of the battle he was fighting, and when it looked as if it were getting to be too much, it was my duty to call my family and inform them they needed to come to the hospital. He left surrounded by us all, each of us sat there and watched as his spirit leaped out of his body and was free.
I miss him every day. There is not a day that goes by that I don't wish I still had him with me.
Everybody tells me that something changed in him when I was born. I know that we were best friends in our other life, and I don't think that the bond will be easily broken. In fact I know that in the next life, it will be stronger still.
I wish so much that I could have seen my son and my grandfather together. I know that they would have been such good buddies.
Do you know what I remember most about him? That he just loved me. He accepted me for who I was and never once tried to change me. I was always good enough for him no questions asked.
I'm going to end this with the paragraph in my favorite book that reminded me of my relationship with him... It goes a little something like this:
"Aunt Alexandra was fanatical on the subject of my attire. I could not possibly hope to be a lady if I wore breeches; when I said I could do nothing in a dress, she said I wasn't supposed to be doing things that required pants. Aunt Alexandra's vision of my deportment involved playing with small stoves, tea sets, and wearing the Add-A-Pearl necklace she gave me when I was born; furthermore, I should be a ray of sunshine in my father's lonely life. I suggested that one could be a ray of sunshine in pants just as well, but Aunty said that one had to behave like a sunbeam, that I was born good but had grown progressively worse every year. She hurt my feelings and set my teeth permanently on edge, but when I asked Atticus about it, he said there were already enough sunbeams in the family and to go on about my business, he didn't mind me much the way I was."
Those few words that Atticus says to Scout in a moment when her feelings were upset because her Aunty had made her feel so badly about herself are words that I feel as if I've heard many times throughout my life from my papa. He has always been that voice for me. The voice that says, "Don't mind them. You go on about your business, I like you just the way you are."
I miss him. Gosh do I miss him.