My Grandfather

November 27, 2006

Mom called about an hour ago to share the news with me that my Grandfather is dead. He’s wasn’t my Mom’s dad; he died when my mother was quite young. Mr. Teirney was the man I always knew as my grandfather when I was young, and (stupid little kid that I was) never questioned who he was or what he was doing in my life.

And why should I have? I love my dad’s parents, of course, the way any kid loves his Grandparents. My mom’s mom, and my grandma’s husband, though … they are the essence of grandparenthood, the one I have stamped on my archetypal brain. It wasn’t just that they were fairly doting (it’s hard to judge from over a decade and a few hundred miles later, but I think I may have been a bit spoiled by them). It was more that, as a kid in a good Catholic family that didn’t do a lot of emotion-sharing, the fact that they loved me was never in question. When you’re 6, your parents are these people who confuse you by caring for you while also demanding you make good grades, don’t bite people at school, clean up after yourself, etc. etc. Your grandparents, though … they take care of you when you’re sick. They play Yahtzee with you, and indulge your strange fixation with Cheez-its.

I’m fairly emotionally screwed up, and yet it’s not hard to get a lump in my throat thinking the man I knew those years ago is now dead. There’s been a lot of water under the bridge between he and my immediate family since then, and I can’t think of the last time I saw him. It was definitely more than a decade ago. Despite living in the same house where those bad feelings were wrought, I was never privy to the details.

If I had to take a stab at it, I’d guess my mother didn’t want me to grow to dislike a man I’d had nothing but good experiences with. I can only imagine what losing your wife to the slow death of cancer would be like. My imagination, is limited, but I can easily see how that could poison a host of good feelings and salt the earth on a number of relationships. Whatever happened, I don’t want to know.

For me, I’m going to sit here and raise a glass to the man who taught me how to swallow pills. I’m going to toast the memory of man whose real role in my life I don’t quite know. I’m going to blink back the tears in my eyes for the many memories I have lost from the years before my Grandmother died. Most of all, I’m going to hope that wherever and however he died, he passed from this life knowing there were people that cared for him. I’m going to hope that he left his life with dignity, and that he didn’t suffer the way his wife did.

Somewhere in my past, there’s a kid crying for the loss of his Grandfather. That kid, though, has it in his head that at least now his Grandpa is back with his Grandmother. Heaven will provide.

I envy that kid’s belief.

Goodbye, Grandpa.



  1. Beautiful tribute to your grandpa.

  2. You were loved greatly by your grandparents. I too remember the Christmases, the many afternoons you sat in grandpa’s lap. After grandma died he returned to his own children. They arrived at the door the night grandma died and whisked him away from all of us. He was a good good man who loved you dearly. I too raise my glass that you knew him.

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