Today, it’s my grandfather’s 82nd birthday. Or, at least, it would have been. As my regular readers and friends know, my Pa passed away in October last year, after being very ill for a very long time. He hasn’t even been gone for a year, and I miss him more than I can put into words. Sometimes I hear a smoker’s cough on the bus, and it reminds me so much of him that my eyes fill with tears. Occasionally, I will see an old man with hair that’s perfectly combed, except for one rebellious strand that sticks straight up and dances in the wind, and I will think for a moment that it’s him. I feel dreadful that there are so many things that I won’t be able to share with my grandfather. He’ll never see me get married or meet my children (in the unlikely event that I ever have any). He’ll never see me graduate from university or get my dream job. Most heart-wrenchingly of all, I’ll never have the chance to tell him another silly story, or send him a funny picture that I’ve found on the internet, or hear his staccato, husky laugh ever again.
My Pa was one of the funniest people that I’ve ever met. More than anyone in the world, he appreciated the value of a good joke. He loved shocking people with raunchy stories or silly anecdotes. If Pa had a motto, I think it would have been, “No matter how badly things are going, there’s always something to laugh at”. Even when he was dreadfully ill, he would be cracking jokes to make us smile. Once, when he was in intensive care after a heart attack, he tried to stop me from crying by holding up a single finger, which was tipped with a flashing LED heart monitor, and pretending to be E.T. When we were little, he used to lather up his chin with shaving cream and chase us around the house, asking for a kiss and smearing foam all over our faces. He was always waiting at the school gates on rainy days to drive us home, swerving to hit roadside puddles and blaring Slim Dusty on the tinny car stereo. He was a fantastic, fun-loving man who loved nothing more than to see the people he loved laughing and smiling. He taught me the importance of having a good sense of humor and that even when everything around you is turning to shit, you can always crack a joke to ease the tension.
Today, I’m celebrating my Pa’s birthday. He had a massive sweet tooth, so I’m planning to scoff lollies and guzzle red cordial until I’m bouncing off the walls. I’m also going to listen to a lot of Johnny Cash and Slim Dusty (his favorites) and watch a movie with a monkey in it. Pa loved apes and orangutans, and his favorite film was Any Which Way But Loose starring Clint Eastwood. I know that doing all of these things will make me miss him, but I’d rather spend the day doing all the good things that made Pa happy than moping about. At least if the movie makes me miss him, I’ll still have a huge grin on my face, knowing that he would be having a great time if he were here with me.
I don’t want to be the sort of person who can’t talk about their departed family members without crying hysterically. For me, it’s fine to cry, and it’s fine to miss them, and it’s okay to feel the pain of the loss. However, at the end of the day, my grandfather is someone who brought immense happiness and love into my life, and I want to remember him with a joyful heart and a loving smile. I don’t want his memory to reduce me to tears, or to evoke such feelings of grief that I can’t bear to bring his face to mind. I’ll always be sad that he’s gone, and I doubt that I will ever stop missing him, but it’s important to me that every tear I shed for him is followed by a smile or a laugh, because I know that’s the way he would want to be remembered.