It's completely personal, but even if only one person reads it, it will be one more person who sees the way it was with me, and with my family.
My grandfather died 42 years ago today. I was 15.
My mother was divorced when I was a baby, and we lived with Mom and Pop until she remarried when I was ten. My stepfather was a monster. Everybody in the world knew it but my mother, until just before she died, when I would have done anything to save her from that knowledge. She tried so hard, and she thought she had done okay, until the truth crashed down on her.
So Mom and Pop were kind of the center of my world. Pop thought the world revolved around me. Mom and I shared many characteristics. She was sick then, starting with the Parkinson's disease that would kill her. Pop had retired six months ago. I spent most of my time at their house, hanging around, doing dusting & vacuuming & mopping for five bucks a week, reading, talking to Pop and Mom.
We didn't know - he did - that his retirement physical had found heart disease.
Sunday, February 7, 1971. About 6 in the evening, the phone rang, and my mother was saying "All right - all right, Mama - ". We lived eight blocks away. It took years to get there.
I ran up the front steps and saw Pop lying back on the couch. He was dead. I knew it right away. Nobody could be that color and be alive, the color of lead. I went reeling across the porch trying not to scream, and my stepfather, as he went past, said "Save the dramatics for the funeral" to me. Monster. Did he think that up ahead of time? Did it just come to him?
I ran out into the street, screaming and crying into my clenched hands. There was a kid walking down the street in the dark, and I remember him turning to look at me, wondering if he could help, then thinking "White girl. I better not." He ran away.
Then the ambulance came. I was left with my grandmother, and I don't remember who else. She sat in Pop's chair, the old red leather rocker, saying very softly "Mitchell. Mitchell. Mitchell."
I sat on the couch, staring at Life or Look, some magaine, at a painting I'd never seen. A woman in a blue dress. Beautiful painting. I'd look at my grandmother with someone sitting by her and forget the painting, then look back and be startled how beautiful it was.
About half an hour later, the door opened and my Uncle Mitch came in, and he shook his head. It had been a massive clot, they said. No hope. Maybe today, but in 1971, no.
More things happened, but I saw my family outlined as they never would be again. I realized once and for all that night that it wasn't me. My stepfather was a monster, and I was tired of placating it. My mother would never step between us; she was involved in her own emotional life, and had chosen her side. And nobody else in my family loved me enough to want to get involved with hell.
But Pop. He is, still, the only person in my family I am sure loved me. My mom had her own agenda. I'm an only child. He loved me, he wanted to protect me, but didn't know how to do it. He called my stepfather, in private, a rubber-jawed SOB. Good description.
So. A few hours, 42 years ago. Pop would be 107 now. I still wish I could put my arms around him and hear him say "Hey, yump". My mother was the Mugwump; I was the Yiddee Old Yump-Yump, but to no one else in the world, ever again.