It’s been one year since my grandpa passed away. This day is an emotional milestone for my family and anyone that knew Emil Deutschman. He left behind a heart sized hole, that we ceaselessly try to fill with stories and memories from before October 30, 2019, clinging to the past so that we can carry him with us into the future.
My grandma and I visited the cemetery that houses the dust of his physical body today, but I don’t picture grandpa there. I remember him most vividly when I drive over train tracks or see railroad crossing signs (he loved trains) and whenever I use hand sanitizer (his hands were always sticky)… a more frequent occurrence amidst a pandemic. I think about grandpa whenever someone opens gift wrap too slowly and meticulously. I fondly recall playing rummy with him whenever I am part of card games. I feel a connection with him whenever I get annoyed with my parents’ dog Bear for being overwhelmingly unnecessarily hyper. I share his competitive spirit and short temper.
I mistakenly drank a pumpkin soy latte at 10 am this morning -an error in judgment that I make approximately every 6 months, to remind myself that I cannot handle caffeine. My anxiety and emotions were already heightened by today’s date, but my trembling now had a built in physical excuse. I felt a version of jittery peace, standing with grandma in a sea of graves, praying out loud to God and thanking Him for the memories and goodness that have been provided in 2020 -despite popular belief. Thanking Him for watching over us and taking care of grandpa. Firmly believing in Him and His plan, and that is so much growth compared to where I was mentally last year.
As we meandered through the rows of tombstones it began to snow for the first time this year, a symbolic event not lost on me. While we were on the hunt for my great grandmother’s grave I told my grandma “nothing reminds me of my mortality quite like a cemetery”. She showed me her nameplate on the crematorium just missing an end date, another reality I am far from ready to accept.
I don’t cry often, my instinctive reaction to unfortunate circumstances is anger -as if life is an unjust circumstance that if I could furiously speak to a manager about, I could resolve. No amount of well spoken rhetoric has the therapeutic effect of actual emotional release though. It felt good to shed a few tears today; overwhelmed with nostalgia yet fulfilled by the knowledge that grandpa lived a great life that I was honored to be a part of for 25 years.
When anniversaries come around we have an opportunity to recognize and celebrate the moments in time that have changed us. I used to believe that we had a choice, a decision to allow these blips in our lives to break us or build us, but perhaps that viewpoint is a little cold and too black and white. Some of the best memories I have are an imperfect combination of breakdowns and buildups, the year after grandpa’s death included.