I’m listening to the sound of rain, and of cars driving up and down Rosebud Road, and between my headache and the general “blah” feeling of today, I’m wishing it were some time else.
Years back. Many years back. Back when we were both young but old, wise but learning, a pair of kindred souls seated in rocking chairs just watching the world go by.
I look out on a day like today and the pain of missing him comes to the fore. He could’ve made today better with a joke or a story or just an hour or so spent rocking on his carport, watching the world drive by, heading for who knows where. He would’ve had a lot to say about the rain: how much would end up in his rain gauge; how good it would be for his tomato plants; how he never worried about hurricanes or big storms because God’s already tried that once. At some point, he would undoubtedly ask me about something from the Bible or baseball or wherever else his mind might have carried us.
I can see him, slightly hunched in his chair with the wicker seat, his silver hair buried beneath a Braves cap, or a Bulldogs cap, or even some random trucker hat he picked up from who knows where. He’s wearing a plaid shirt and navy pants, his feet tucked securely into his navy socks and tennis shoes. His blue eyes sparkle even though the rain obscures the sun, and he’s smiling or laughing or suddenly very still and thoughtful, waiting for the right moment to break the silence.
God, I loved sitting on that carport with him. We’d count cars: 1-2-3, until he got bored or I did. Then we’d switch and play a game – he’d count red cars, I’d count blue, and whoever had the most at the end of the hour was the winner. It was never me; I was too convinced that he would try and bamboozle me over the number he counted, so I spent my time counting his cars instead of my own. We’d get to the end of the hour and he’d laugh at the fact that I could tell him how many red cars had gone by, but couldn’t even offer a guess about the blues.
We’d sit there in silence sometimes. Pure silence, not the kind that comes from having nothing to say, but from understanding that not having to say anything spoke loudest of all.
Today, I miss him.
I would give anything to hear his voice one more time. To hear his invitation to sit down and rock for a bit. I’d love to hear what he would have to say about the upcoming election, or the upcoming Georgia football season. He had a way of offering insights that others wouldn’t dare, of giving you not just opinion but illumination.
I would love to see my daughter laughing at his stories, or watch my son race his cars around his feet, and then see his reaction to them, to their liveliness and beauty. He would hug them close and kiss their heads, I’m sure. And then he would make up the most outrageous story he could think of and try and convince them that it was true. In the end he’d own up to the lie, but they would forgive him instantly because they would love him.
Just like I did.
Sunday was nine years to the day since he fell over in Tom Wages funeral home, victim to a massive heart attack. Nine years to the day since I’d stood over his small, empty body in a darkened corner of the Eastside hospital ER and cried, flat out wept, at the gaping hole his death left in my life. I can remember every wrinkle on his face, the way his eyes were absent any color, even the way his hair had turned waxy within just a scant few minutes. I can feel the same ache in my heart now that I felt then, threatening to rip me apart as if I were built on a perforation.
Time heals, it’s true. But it doesn’t diminish.
It doesn’t erase.
It’s raining, and the cars are driving by, and I’m missing you, Pop Emmette. You would have loved your great-granddaughter Ella. She would have eaten up your stories the same way her daddy always did, and she would’ve spun you a few tales of her own to make you proud. And Jonathan is just getting to the age where you could start instructing him on the proper mechanics of a baseball throw. He loves baseball and trains and just being a boy; he would’ve spent hours at your side watching ballgames with you, or following you up to that massive treasure cave you called a shop.
But you were gone before they came along.
You were gone before I could tell you that Rachel was pregnant with our first daughter, Ruthanne. And when she died almost nine months later, the most miserable year of my life became official.
Now I’m sitting here, alone in my office, tears and snot running down my face, because I feel your absence as much today as I did in that crummy little hospital room. And I wish I could go back to just one of those many days that we sat together.
Tomorrow, I’ll mark the one year anniversary of my other grandfather’s passing. It will also be my father’s birthday. This week is laden with thoughts of fathers and sons and what they mean to each other. How precious those relationships are. So enjoy them. Cherish them. Make the most of the opportunities you have.
I know I did. And still do.