For as long as there is a Clearing out the Clutter, there will only be one thing we post on November 11th. Happy Birthday, Grandpa, I miss you.
Originally published: November 11, 2010
November 11th is Veterans Day, and I'd like to recognize all of the past and current members of the military who have served our country. Thank you for all that you've done.
November 11th also marks something much closer to home for me, it's my grandfather's birthday. One of the most fortunate aspects of my life is that I had such terrific grandparents, and that I was able to have them in my life for so long. I have a thousand fond memories of them, and I'm incredibly appreciative of that.
My grandfather was a terrific guy. He was incredibly kind, generous, and good-hearted. He was also curious about others and their lives, and the world in general. He was a great role model for his grandson. He was of fairly average build, but he had a handshake and a hug that would have made Bruno Sammartino proud. To be fair, no man is perfect, and my grandfather had his faults, just like everyone else. The key "challenge" being that he was a lifelong Yankees fan, who, while always polite about it, never failed to mention when they beat the Red Sox. No one ever carried on a more good-natured bout of trash talking than he did. However, we were always able to work around this slight difference of opinion.
I still remember the day of the infamous 2004 Red Sox-Yankees fight where Jason Varitek shoved his glove into A-Rod's face (otherwise known as "one of the most awesome things that ever happened.") I was visiting my grandparents, and we were watching the game in their living room-Grandpa in his recliner chair to the far left, Grandma in her recliner chair in the middle of the room, and me sitting in one of those over-sized chairs on the right. I grew more and more animated as the fight went on, jumping up and down, perhaps yelling encouragement about what 'Tek could do to A-Rod, and then I suddenly remembered where I was. I stopped, looked at the two of them, and said, "Huh. This is awkward." Grandpa just laughed.
However, we were always able to move past this immense conflict, one that might normally drive families apart forever, and recognize what was important. He and Mom Clutter gave me a Red Sox watch a few years ago that I expect to be buried with. This watch gets a lot of attention wherever I go, and I love telling people that a Yankees fan gave it to me. I returned the favor by once giving him as a birthday present a copy of an old picture of Ted Williams and Babe Ruth shaking hands in front of a dugout. That picture is on the wall right behind me as I write this, and it puts a smile on my face every time. I like to think we represented the great promise of the world. If we could put aside these immense differences, anything is possible.
I would also be remiss if I didn't point out that my grandfather was one of the biggest flirts I've ever met in my life. Female friends, girlfriends, he made them melt like butter, to my utter horror. One friend threatened to steal him from my grandmother roughly 20 minutes after meeting him. Do you know what it's like to be completely outmaneuvered by your grandfather? He would claim that he had no idea what I was talking about, but I didn't buy it for a second. He knew. He knew he was that smooth.
He died a few years ago, and that remains one of the worst losses I've ever experienced. As it worked out, the last time I saw him was the same day as my very close friend's wedding. I don't have the words to express the roller coaster of emotions that day. I saw Grandpa that morning, and we both knew I was coming to say goodbye. I put it off saying it as long as I possibly could, and finally managed to squeeze the words out and give him a kiss. I then had to completely shift gears and get ready for the wedding where I would be giving the toast. I won't repeat the entire toast for you now, but I think it was safe to say that it was pretty funny, and everything was going fine until the end. I looked around at all of the people in that room there to celebrate that couple, and I was suddenly aware of feeling part of a much larger journey or circle of life. As my grandparents' story was coming to a close, my friend's was just starting a new chapter. I was so relieved to only have about two sentences left to say, because I don't think I could have done more.
My grandfather died just a couple of days after that, and I think I cried for six hours straight. Just uninterrupted wailing. You know that everyone dies eventually, but that first day, I think I was actually somewhat terrified of a world that didn't include him. I just couldn't begin to process how that could possibly work. I couldn't see how I could possibly move forward now that one of my biggest anchors was gone. Eventually I began to move on, but it's a loss that I still feel every day.
I still have a few material things of his. I mentioned that picture of Ted Williams and Babe Ruth, and I've written before about his gym bag. There are a few other physical items, but most of all I like to think I've managed to carry on some of his...I don't know...nature...as the years go by. A friend of mine paid me one of my most valued compliments ever when she sent me a condolence card saying, "I know your grandfather must have been terrific, because he had a terrific grandson." I couldn't be more honored.
Happy Birthday, Grandpa.