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Some things you can’t have

I used to talk to my grandfathers as a child and as a young adult. I’m sure many of you did too. Some of your grandfathers may have passed on from the living too.

Sometimes it was out loud, as if I was talking to you – though I’d sure as hell make sure you weren’t there to hear me. As a child, sometimes it was a whisper filled with yearning, as if they’d be more likely to hear me if I wanted it enough. Mostly it was silent thoughts, knowing they were gone, unreachable, but imagining their invisible presence to help me sort through tougher times.

And no, there was no psychosis involved, no hallucinations, or sharp blows to the head.

I understood the implications of death, but I wasn’t afraid of it. I had strong opinions on the matter though. I hated it like it was a thing, something that had stolen from me.

I don’t talk to them anymore. I don’t think about them as much as I did. Life gives us too much as we grow to grasp so tightly the things we’ve lost so long ago. But of course I still miss them, even as my memories of them fade. Maybe that’s life crowding out the pain of loss, healing a wound by overwhelming it with healthier tissue. If so, I think it’s misguided if not cruel. I want those memories back. I’m not satisfied with random events, I want to remember who they were. I want to remember with all my senses, but much of it is lost to time. My memories are more like a photo album than something experienced.

I wish I could really talk to them. I’d like to ask them for advice. I’d like to get their take on current events. I’d like to talk politics with them over a cup of coffee, even if we didn’t agree.

Some people wonder if their ancestors would be proud of them and what they’ve done with their lives. I wonder sometimes too. Tonight I lay sleepless in my great-great grandfather’s bed, wondering the same thing, my fingers tracing the wood grain of the headboard, imagining him doing the same many lifetimes ago.

I don’t want to wonder about my grandfathers. If they’d lived as long as I feel they should have I’d know, talking to them over a cup of coffee.

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