I Have Become My Own Grandfather.
I recall a number of things about my Grandfather, who passed away when I was nineteen. For most of my life, we lived fairly close to him, and as a result, I spent a great deal of time with him, which I wouldn’t trade for anything in the world. Yet, since his departure, I have slowly noticed that, over the years, I have, in many ways, become him. None of this has been conscious or intentional; generally, I just eventually become aware that I have adopted his characteristics, which for the most part, pleases me greatly.
My Grandfather was a man of daily rituals and consistent behaviors. His wardrobe comes immediately to mind; Grandpa wore the same basic clothing every single day. Tan pants, a white t-shirt, black shoes, and depending on weather, either a brown or gray sweater, and if it was really cold, a black jacket over the sweater. Tan, brown, gray, black and white were the only colors in his wardrobe pallet. This morning, when I got dressed, I put on tan pants, a black t-shirt, a black sweater, and tan shoes. While the particular colors of each item for me may vary, and while I also include olive drab in my pallet, I tend to, these days, stick to that pallet very closely. I like to think the extension to include olive drab in that selection of colors is evidence of genetic evolution. He also wore, essentially, the same type of pants and the same type of sweaters every day; it wasn’t that he didn’t have enough clothes to wear, as he would actually collect multiple items that were identical to the items he already had. I thought of this as I selected one of my eight pairs of Railriders VersaTac pants in tan this morning. If you find something that works, why would you wear something else?
I also seem to have inherited his dark sense of humor. My Grandfather lost both of his legs by the time he was about 60 years old. At times, I’ve thought it amusing to come up with some grandiose story about how he lost his legs, whether it was due to being too close to a land mine, or being the victim of a shark attack, or any other number of scenarios. The reality is that he lost them both to gangrene, as the result of poor circulation, likely compounded by a lifetime of smoking cigarettes and eating foods high in cholesterol. These are also habits I seem to have inherited, though my circulation is far better than his at a comparable age, owed to different levels of physical activity. I mostly eat “like a giant baby with money”, smoke nearly a pack of cigarettes a day, and fortunately, I still have both of my legs.
When I was little, my parents would encourage me to ask my Grandfather what he’d like for his birthday. I remember, more than once, asking him this as he sat in his wheelchair, only to be told, “You know, a new pair of shoes would be nice.” I’d return to my parents to pass on the information I’d gathered, only to be sent back in to gather legit information, and my Grandfather would then be enjoying the fruits of his prank. After all, a man with no legs has little need for new shoes. Nothing was off limits for comedy, whether it was other people’s pain, or his own. Humor is, in the end, largely a coping mechanism to deal with fear, pain, and other uncomfortable aspects of life.
I have not fully metamorphosed, naturally; there are still changes to come. I still don’t drink entire gallons of milk in one sitting. I probably smoke cigarettes at about half the rate he did. I haven’t found a way to consistently watch Barney Miller reruns yet. Yet, it seems only a question of time; these changes are surely inevitable. Younger-me would have dreaded these changes, but younger-me was an ass. More-mature-me looks forward to becoming at least half the man my Grandfather was.