What is happening to me? Crazy some say… Where is my friend when I need him most? Gone away….
For some, music can bring back memories from ones childhood. Perhaps hearing a particular song will bring you back to playing at your favorite playground, or sitting in the back of your mothers car while on the way to the beach. Some songs can bring back the joys of being a careless teenager, or the pain of a bad breakup. Music does that all for me. For instance, hearing “Hold Me Now” by the Thompson Twins reminds me of a playground I used to frequent as a child. I can still smell the hot metal of the slide, and the rubber of the tire swing. I can hear the squeaking of the swing sets, and the feeling of sand in my sneakers. It’s a pleasant memory, a memory that reminds me of being carefree, or blissfully ignorant.
Then there are the memories that are painful, the memories that still creep up and whisper in your ear when you least expect them.
Today at the gym, I heard the song “Ordinary World” by Duran Duran, and I was instantly transported back to my bedroom in my parents house, clutching my stuffed panda, rocking back and forth. The song was stuck on repeat, I started playing it while the sun streamed through my bedroom windows, and kept playing it as the streetlights came on, the room falling dark. I never left that spot, not until we had to go back, back to where it happened, back to where everything changed, back to where my grandfather, earlier that day, had passed away, in front of me.
As a child I spent many a day at the home of my grandparents. Before making the move to Rumford, we lived just up the street from them. Close enough for me to hop on my big wheel and ride down.
I would help my grandfather in his garden, watch the Price is Rite with my grandmother, and watch my grandfather do carpentry work in the basement. To say that we were close would be an understatement. I spent 60 percent of my time with my grandparents, most of it with my grandfather.
It was a gorgeous Sunday afternoon. There wasn’t a cloud in the sky. It was warmer than your average April afternoon, and I remember the smell of lilacs in the air.
We were there for our weekly Sunday dinner. Meat and potatoes, which was typical. My sister sat to my left, and my grandfather to my right. My sister and I were arguing. Being 7 years apart, it was not unusual. I was 12, and she was 5. I felt as she was constantly invading my space, and being 12 and hormonal didn’t help. We were told to “cut it out” numerous times that day. My family just wanting to eat in peace, my sister and I making it otherwise. At one point I remember my grandfather patted me on the head, leaned in and said that I was a good kid, then as he got up to grab the milk behind us, finished with saying “when you’re sleeping”.. Of course that made everyone chuckle. Those were his last words to me.
I think of this “last meal” quite often. I replay it on my mind and think that if I had just kept my mouth shut, if I had just left my sister alone, then it would have been a more pleasant meal, for him, for all of us.
After dinner my mother went out to cut the grass, my grandfather went with her to help. It seemed like only seconds had passed when I heard my mother come barreling back into the house, her voice frantic as she yelled to call an ambulance. I didn’t seem real to me, I thought she was joking until I heard her sobbing to the 911 operator.. Things began to move in slow motion. I felt “out of body” as I slowly stood up and made my way outside to see what had happened. As I approached the yard I saw my grandfather on his back, my father bent over him, slapping his face. “Dad! Wake up! Dad!”
As I got closer I noticed my grandfather no longer had a warm flesh tone, his skin a strange shade of purple. His eyes were open, but glazed, staring straight up to the heavens, looking at nothing at all. I remember just standing and staring, hands in my pockets, unable to speak. I slowly turned and made my way back to the house, behind me the paramedics had arrived, and began to try and bring the life back into my grandfather. I remember going into one of the bedrooms and watching as they began CPR, and then the AED. I remember dropping to my knees and praying, no, ASKING God to please let him live, to let him be ok. Shortly after, my mother came in and told me they got a heartbeat, that he was going to be transported to the hospital, my father going with him. We were brought back to our house by a friend of my mothers. It wasn’t long after we got home that the phone rang, and I was told that my grandfather didn’t make it, that he passed away. They said he had been having mild heart attacks all day that day, and when he bent down in the yard, he had one final massive attack. They said he “probably” didn’t even feel anything, that it was quick.
It’s funny what people say to try and help you feel better about something so tragic.
“he never felt a thing”
“It was quick”
“He didn’t suffer”
None of those things mattered to me. My grandfather was gone, he was gone and I couldn’t say goodbye, couldn’t tell him just how important he was to me. My grandfather was gone, and the last memory I have of us together is me being an asshole to my little sister at the dinner table.
“You’re a good kid…. When you’re sleeping”
I made my way to my bedroom, put on my Duran Duran cd, Ordinary world on repeat, and went into my own world, a world that was no longer ordinary to me. A world that seemed near-ending.
That following week was tough, I remember the looks from the teachers when they saw me back in school. Strangers taking me by the hands and saying they were sorry. I hated people telling me that they were sorry. They didn’t know him, they weren’t sorry. All it did was remind me that he was gone. Every time I felt like I had slight relief from the pain, someone else would say they were sorry, and it would hit me all over again. It was never something I completely got over, as much as I tried.
So as I am on the treadmill this morning, listening to this song that I haven’t heard since that day, I am flooded with all these thoughts, these memories. I even found myself tearing up; Even now as I type this.
All I can do is the cliche’ “remember the good times”; and I do, but the pain is still there, even 20 years later it’s still fresh, I still miss him.
“As I try to make my way to the Ordinary world, I will learn to survive”