Sometimes the most surprising things throw me. My grandpa died in March of 2007. This will be the 2nd Christmas without him. And yet, it still feels like the first. I remember the last Christmas we were all together like it was a couple days ago. We all sat in the living room with the tree. My grandpa and I were smashed together on the couch. I would periodically rest my head on his shoulder, or pat his leg. He was quiet, but only because we were all happy together. My mom and dad gave him a bed-in-a-bag and it made his pile of presents huge. He kept trying to keep them all arranged in a nice pile. He was always a neat person - he would fold up wrappers from candy bars or wrappers from a burrito into an amazingly tiny square. When I was small I was amazed at how much water he could wring out from a washcloth. His hands were strong and capable, even as he aged. And he moved them with a sort of solid deliberateness that did not leave him until he was very sick. He was a lefty, and at Thanksgiving we always made jokes about his elbows bumping ours.
This year when I arrived at my old home for Thanksgiving dinner, my mom brought out 2 pictures, nearly identical. One is of a small baby sitting on the lap of a smiling man in a maroon lazyboy. The other, the same scene, only the baby wears a large grin. As my mom handed them to me, I smiled and made some "oh" sound. But I couldn't talk about the pictures for too long, couldn't say how grateful I was. The pictures immediately began to draw tears up from wherever it is grief hides.
My grandpa's hands, those same true hands, are wrapped around my infant waist, supporting me. His legs are casual, one up on the seat, the other on the floor. Every detail of the picture reminds me of things lost; his hands, his house slippers, the maroon lazyboy he would often fall asleep in (my grandma pointing to him and saying "Pa" to wake him), the soft grin on his face. And saddest of all, on the back of the photos reads "Harold + Johanna Rose 1983" in his swirling left handed cursive.
It's all quite bittersweet. I love the snapshots so much. He and I had a special relationship; it was always sweet. No anger, nothing ever needed to forgive. The pictures, taken the year I was born, show the beginning of our friendship. He and I together. Grandpa was already retired and he took care of me several days a week through my toddler years. He never made me feel guilty if I was selfish and didn't visit as often as I should. He trusted me with his car when I had just been given my learner's permit. He was infinitely patient with me, with my grandma and her illness, with his own children. He was quiet and loving and intelligent and so wonderful - it's impossible to describe.
So I'm keeping the pictures, but I can't frame them. I'm keeping them in a plastic bag because I like to be able to see the back; the living part of the photo where he wrote our names together.