24 February 2008...12:42 pm

Everybody’s Coming From The Winter Vacation Taking In The Sun In An Exaltation To You

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My grandfather died a week ago. Grandpop grandfather, not Granddaddy one. The funeral was on Wednesday and at a lunch afterwards my father gave a speech. It was mainly about how he liked to fix things. That is what my father said about my grandfather, although this is true of both of them and tin ceilings and Lutheran faucets that would never dream of leaking line homes from Jersey City to Anderson, Indiana, as testament.


I only told a few of my friends that my grandfather had even died. It’s kind of an embarrassment of white haired riches; my other three grandparents are still alive, and the time in which Grandpop and I were close-ish ended fifteen years ago, when I grew bored of his hand-me-down Reader’s Digests.

Sonic Youth_Silver Rocket.mp3

I am partial to things, especially sad things and real things, that come packaged in pertness, so when my friends who knew I’d been at the funeral asked how it had gone, I retold part of my father’s speech. He told us that Grandpop was a man dedicated to the virtues of hard work and sacrifice; he served in the Navy, led an Eagle Scout troop, and 1960 armed my twelve year old father with Nixon For President placards and positioned him immediately outside the legal limit of the polls. Given how radically my politics have changed since that time, my own father said, my father is probably still laughing.


I wept the entire time he spoke and had to go outside and get some snow on my face afterwards. I was a little shocked at myself. I have enough trouble caring in public, crying in public is not what I do.

Sonic Youth_Disappearer.mp3

Both of my parents are in Ocean City tonight, where they have a beach house and where my grandmother now lives alone. I came to their South Orange house because no one was here and I have a paper to write and wanted to cook dinner. They turn off the radiator in my old room when I’m not visiting, and I forgot to turn it back on, so I decided to sleep in their bed. It’s big and warm and Hannah said when they went away last week she slept in it so I thought that sounded nice.


I was hanging up my dress in my mother’s closet when I saw a stack of money with a rubber band around it on my father’s dresser. Next to it was a red plastic covered bank passbook with the word SAVINGS written in slanting old person capitals and underlined twice. It was my grandfather’s, and now my father has it. His mother, my grandmother, my grandfather’s wife, has Alzheimer’s and can’t take care of anything anymore.

Sonic Youth_Providence.mp3

I fell apart. I wept, again, and so loudly it was like I filled up the entire big drafty house. I think that I am having such a hard time with Grandpop’s death because it is the first time I have really needed to consider my father as a person. Generations and confidence and power all get flattened out in the face of death; right now my father is just a sad person with a sad old bank passbook and the contents of his dead dad’s wallet sitting on his dresser.


It may be that recognizing that my father is circumstantially vulnerable to mortality means that he is physically vulnerable to it, too. I wish that my father could remain forever dignified in my mind, but that’s not possible, because his father couldn’t remain forever dignified to his. That’s why I was crying. I am so angry at the world, for my father. There is nothing as degrading as death, not for the person to whom it happens, but to everyone left.


[Buy more Sonic Youth.]


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