I want to tell you about your grandfather. . . .”
I began writing at Hospice House. The letter is addressed to my sister’s three-year-old son. My sister insists that the boy will remember his grandfather. And maybe, by the grace of God, he will. But memories are limited by knowledge, and a young child knows very little. And so I write.
“There are many, many things I want you to know about Papa. . . .”
Important things. Your grandfather was a man of deep faith who walked closely with God. He lived with courage and grace. Multiple Sclerosis ravaged his body but not his spirit. He never complained about his situation; he said, “There is always someone in worse shape than you.” He spat in the eye of his cursed disease every day.
And little things. Papa was left-handed. He had blue eyes and a big, beautiful smile. And really big ears. He loved sports. He could tie a cherry stem in a knot with his tongue. He loved to laugh.
“And oh, dear child, how he loved you. . . .”
You seem to be an aspiring athlete and an engineer in-the-making. Your grandmother kept a beach ball in the living room so that you could play ball with Papa. You often turned his walker over to inspect the wheels, spinning them round and round. Your grandfather loved to play with you. He told me on more than one occasion that he dearly wished that he could live long enough to watch you grow up.
I have laughed and cried and laughed and cried some more. A friend told me I was lucky to have had a father who inspires weeping. And so I go on remembering and writing, laughing and crying. Though my nephew will not receive the letter for many years, I write with a sense of urgency. Remembering, because I am terrified that I might forget. The letter is nearly complete. But even as I write and edit, I remember more. New stories float to the surface. And so the journey continues as I delay and search for courage to write the ending. An ending that goes something like this:
“Niko, when Papa died, you were sad that he left without saying goodbye. That he didn’t even leave you a note. But you should know that he left you a message. He spoke directly to you. He said, ‘You’re Papa’s sweet boy. Don’t forget . I love you, Nikolas.’”