Elegy for a Man Who Cut a Couch in Half with a Chainsaw
August 25, 2015
When my sister and I were young, one of our favorite things was to hear our Grandpa Pete sing what he called "The Boom-Boom Song." As a child, I believed that my grandpa had made up this song just for us. In fact, we asked him to sing it so many times that he recorded it on a cassette tape for us (probably to avoid having to sing it a thousand more times). We listened to the recording so often that I can remember the exact cadence of his voice.
After my sister unearthed the tape from her childhood bedroom, she walked down the hallway with it held in her hands like some delicate baby bird fallen from the nest. We both burst into tears, unable to cobble together the words that might explain to our parents what she had found and what it meant to us.
Then we went to Grandpa Pete's viewing at the funeral home.
The last time I had communicated with him was an exchange of letters around my wedding nearly five years ago. He sent a check and congratulations; I sent him a photograph. Afterwards, we retreated into the silence that had built up after my grandmother died.
My grandfather loved my grandmother fiercely and did whatever he could to make her happy, no matter how crazy it seemed to outsiders. When she told him once that a poinsettia would look best in the middle of their couch, he took a chainsaw and cut it in half for her.
When she died, some part of him withered and withdrew.
He never met my husband. He never met my sister's twins, a son and daughter, now four.
His silence never angered or upset me. I understand how you can turn stone-tongued with grief, the dividing line that loss can make between the person you once were and the person you became. I understand the desire to avoid what reminds you of what you mourn. In this, I am his granddaughter, whether we were related by blood or not.
I understand now, too, how little nurturing love needs to survive, how durable it can be. My memories of Grandpa Pete are almost entirely of laughter. I can't help but think that that's what he would have wanted.