I think you've been hanging on these last couple years more because you knew so many people loved you than because you really wanted to. That'd be like you. I don't know how many times my parents called me and said, "Jim's not doing so well, they don't think he's going to make it through the night." And every time, you surprised them, you pulled through with a polite, "no not right now, thanks." Even this time, you held out a good week longer than anyone thought you would. Still I wish I could have seen you once more.
You've been more like a grandfather to me than a great-uncle. I remember when you came to my class for grandparents day in fifth grade. I surprised mom by asking if she thought you would, and she surprised me by saying she though you'd be thrilled that I asked. I don't know if you were, but I think she was right, and it made me feel bigger, better somehow to realize you'd be happy to be considered my grandparent. You told me and my friends stories about your time in World War II that I don't remember anymore. Grandma and Bud were there too, but you were the only one who ever talked about it.
Before Grandma moved to Oregon, whenever she came to town during Thanksgiving, we'd all go over to your place to be with you and Flo and Mona. That felt more like real family time than any other holiday I'd experienced, and the next year, when Grandma stayed in Philadelphia, I told mom I wanted to go to your house again. She explained that it was rude to invite ourselves, but I told her I didn't care, and I bugged her until she did.
As you approached 90, as I realized you were the last person living in my grandparents generation. I wanted to ask you about our family, wanted to hear all your stories, or at least some of them, and this time write them down. I wanted to give you another hug. I wanted to tell you that I can't help but love my fiance's father because he reminds me so much of you. More than the things I wish I'd said though, I regret that I'll never get to talk to you again. To hear your sharp quiet sense of humor.
Jim, I've never been able to guess what comes next, but wherever you are, I hope you're not in pain, I hope you can rest or not as you please. I hope there's still a you somewhere, because you were such a wonderful "you." I love you Jim, and I'll miss you.
A Certain Lack of Focus
Thursday, June 26, 2008