Personal Narrative

In Memoriam – Edward J. Bachman

St Patrick’s Day, 2011

I don’t know what to say about my grandfather. Starting with “he died last night” seems so obvious, so “well, duh – you titled it a memorial post, so we kind of figured that.” But how else do you start a post where you’re going to pour your heart, your pain, out into words so you can start dealing with it? How else should I start to subject you, my unsuspecting readers, to a surprising level of anguish that I’m feeling? Grandpa died. He was the grandparent I was the closest to, and now he’s gone. Sure, I’d said my goodbyes years ago, before the dementia took him away while leaving his body behind. But somehow every time I tell myself this, it rings hollow. Because he’s still gone, and before, somehow, he wasn’t.

Grandpa died on St. Patty’s day too. He liked his corned beef and cabbage, and so do I. It’s one of the things we had in common. It’s the only beef meal I look forward to every year, and this year it’s spoiled. Yeah, the crockpot ruined it before my emotions could, but it would never have tasted right regardless, because my grandfather is dead.

Grandpa liked his highballs. Jack Daniels Black Label and ginger ale, over ice. I bought the first bottle of JD I think I’ve ever bought a few days ago, and today on the way home I bought the ginger ale. I had a highball tonight after having a beer, and it tasted just as I remembered. Sweet, cold, with a kick that could put you under the table if you drank too many, too fast. But even as I drank it to honor my grandpa’s memory, it too tasted wrong, because my grandpa is dead.

Just yesterday I told my wife that I was going to set up a pretty still life – ginger ale, JD, a highball partly drank, a pack of cards, and a roll of quarters for the poker grandpa loved to play. You know, the kind of image that goes great with a proper obituary. Fuck that. Today such grand plans feel like so much empty bullshit, because my grandpa is dead.

Even writing this feels fake. Because the act of writing it distances me from the pain, lets me hold it up in my hand and examine it like some kind of fancy crystal ball filled with bile and lava. But that’s not what I want. I want my grandpa back, dammit! I want the man who I loved, who taught me to play poker, to make strong drinks so it was easier to win at poker, who I hooked through the thumb with a bluefish lure and who loved me anyway, who was a goddamn racist and who was ashamed of being half Irish, yet who loved me and protected me by never swearing in front of me or badmouthing anyone where I could hear it

None of that matters, because my grandpa is dead, and all I can think about is how much I’m going to miss him, warts and all. He meant more to me than I could have possibly imagined, and no matter how much I tell myself that he was gone years ago, it’s all bullshit.

My grandpa is gone – today. He died in his sleep last night, not last year. And my world will never be the same.

Categories: Personal Narrative

8 replies »

  1. There is nothing that can be said that can even begin to address the anguish you are feeling, so I won’t try. What I will say is, may time help heal your pain.

  2. It does matter, even if it doesn’t seem so at the moment. You’ll remember him this time every year, and that counts for something. I went through the same thing w/my aunt when she died, thinking that to memorialize her wouldn’t matter. I forced myself to do it because I knew it would be something to hold on to. Most everyone shares this pain sometime in their life – you are not alone. Hell, I got misty watching Johnny Cash the other night just because it reminded me of my grandmother.

    So, do the still-life and knock one back – not necessarily in that order. And try to forget about the warts.

  3. I still have a post in Drafts that I started writing after my dad died in September. I know what you mean about “distancing [your]self from the pain.” I did it with a memorial video that I obsesses over for 48 hours, but it let me work on something that I was good at and avoid what I was not good at (grieving). Yep, it’s not going to feel right for a long time–maybe not ever right the same way again.

    • My grandmother was without a doubt the most important person in my entire life. She died in 1990. I have never been able to write about her. I don’t know that I ever will, although I certainly owe it to her.

  4. What a privilege it is to, in some way, experience the love and affection you feel for your grandfather. I am richer for it As are you.

  5. I know it doesn’t help, but my deepest condolences, Brian.

    Someday those highballs are going to be special. I hate whiskey with a deep passion, but now and again one just seems right because it was my great grandmother’s drink. (And it’s easier than trying to drink like her daughter; i’m not Polish enough to live on a shot and a beer for eight hours of every day.)

  6. My condolances.

    Your Gramps sounds like a helluva guy, and he would be honored by your tribute. Play a round of poker in his honor; you’ll always be a winner with that memory.



  7. My sympathy, too. You’ll be surprised how often you think about him, even 30 years from now.