The Water’s Edge
September 15, 2016
Today would have been your grandpa’s 75th birthday. As I have done in the past, I like to try and write about someone on their birthday so you get to know them all a little bit more. I don’t think I can fit your whole grandpa into one post, so I’ll just focus on one memory.
As you probably can tell, I don’t mind writing. Other than these letters, though, there’s likely just one other thing I’ve ever written that I wish I still had. But that’s how things go some time.
It was Father’s Day, maybe 20 years ago. I honestly can’t remember what had gone wrong, but likely it was some fallout from me not going to med school and your grandpa not being able to forgive me for that. We had stopped talking — I don’t remember how long it was, we didn’t talk that much then anyway and it was never a long conversation when we had one.
I decided that it wasn’t worth how it was, so I wrote him a poem, The Water’s Edge. I wrote and re-wrote it over and over, eventually hand writing it into a card I left with your grandma to give to him for Father’s Day.
I don’t remember the actual words anymore, but I remember the basic premise of it, so I’ll share that with you.
The poem starts with the two of us sitting side by side on the beach, both looking out at the sea as the waves roll into each other. It was the two of us both looking at the same thing, yet seeing something entirely different. Neither of us said a word.
Your grandpa was sick at this point in life. I wrote this poem because I knew we didn’t have forever to make it better. And so, in the middle of the poem, your grandpa passed away in this stranger-than-fiction alter world.
As the poem came to its close, I returned to the water’s edge on my own, to look back out at the sea, only to see it different. I saw a place where our dreams and aspirations came together. I saw a place where they built each other up, not bring each other down. I saw how foolish we can be, could be, were being — and I greatly regretted it.
I remember returning to Carvel to see your grandma. She sounded alarmed as she saw me coming. “What did you write in your card,” she prodded. “Why, I asked?” “Because I have never seen your father cry like that.”
And that was how it ended. We made up, sort of. Your grandpa has been gone for 17 years already. I wrote him that poem 20 years ago. We never talked about what I wrote, never took it head on.
I can’t imagine what the remaining time we had would have been like if we did try to sort it out, make it better. I can’t imagine making that mistake again in my life, either. And that, son, is why I write you now.