07 August 2009


I have two grandfathers. I used to have more.

My great-grandfather, my dad's grandfather, 'Great-Granddaddy-in-San-Francisco' we would call him, all run together as one word (as opposed to 'Granddaddy-in-Palo-Alto'), he passed away when I was six. We used to visit him in San Francisco, where he lived with our Grandma Esther. World War I vet, former mayor of Twin Falls, Idaho. He was framed for murder during his re-election campaign, his wife (my great-grandmother) left him, he spent five years in prison before proven innocent, with help from Esther. They moved together to San Francisco, where he was a jeweler and watch repairman. He used to give us M&Ms in a glass candy dish. He had an elevator going up to his apartment. When he was 89 he was beaten and mugged. He had to give up his apartment, live in a nursing home. Esther had already passed away. He died a year and a half later, in the spring. That same year, on his birthday, the Loma Prieta Earthquake struck, with the epicenter less than a mile from my parents' house.

Me, great-grandaddy

Grandpa. My grandpa. The only grandpa I've ever just called grandpa. I always felt adored by him. He was a difficult man. Mean. Intolerant. He rarely turned that side of his personality on me. He took me to get my ears pierced for my birthday. He wore rainbow suspenders and a beret. He tipped generously. He did 80 push-ups every morning, rode his bike everywhere. He once mocked me with line, "I'm a lady of the world, I hardly know how to speak English anymore!" Because I was wearing shoes.


Granddaddy. Or Mac. Depending. He goes by Mac, we call him Granddaddy. My dad's dad. A Freudian psychiatrist. A difficult man. A collector of antique watches. Thrower of restaurant tantrums. Sharp. Intolerant. Judgmental. Married to his third wife. But. My grandfather. Witty. Not unkind. Honestly, I love him. He is my grandfather. Last year he had to have triple bypass surgery. His recovery was slow. Hospitalizations. Cellulitis. He finally had to close down his medical practice. I'm not sure that anyone but my dad really thought he was going to make it. But my dad did. And he did. My dad visits him every Saturday, goes out to eat, goes to the movies. He's my grandfather. Granddaddy. Or Mac, yknow, depending.

Harly & Grandaddy

Grandpa Irv. My dad's step-dad. Married to my grandmother when my dad was 14 years old. Unlike Granddaddy's wife Deborah, he's been a part of my life my whole life. Loving and kind, while simultaneously skeevy and uncomfortable with awkwardly long hugs and weepy professions of how much he loves you. But he means it well. He loves us. He loves us like his own grandchildren. I think we are his grandchildren. As of this week he's in a nursing home. My grandmother worked up into a fret and a tizzy in that big empty house with her husband in a home. He's not doing well. The last time I saw him, I last saw him in July, it was only July, I thought to myself, maybe even said out loud, "Irv doesn't look like he's doing very well." And I guess he's not. It seems less foreign though. We've been watching his health decline for years.

grandparents & cousins

It was just July, it was just July, that I was thinking in my head that Grandpa Irv doesn't look well. But I wasn't even really worried about Grandpa, who hadn't yet fallen, who hadn't yet been declared to be living under the shadow of death, who was still well enough for us all to feel resentful, for him to be mean. And then when Grandpa, when my grandpa died, the health problems of Irv just seemed like they had faded away. Because how could he be dying with one already dead? How can that work? It doesn't. It doesn't work that way. Does it?