We spent the Memorial Day weekend trekking to the great Midwest for my grandfather’s memorial service. While the circumstances were sad, we had a wonderful time with Dad’s side of the family, remembering Papa John.
On our last day in Indianapolis, we stood around his new headstone and talked about what we remembered. Remember that time he landed a helicopter in a tiny patch of grass in front of a Hilton, or in Aunt Shelly and Uncle Sean’s backyard, to the amazement of all the neighbors? Remember how he used to evaluate a car, running his hands along the sides, as if it were a racehorse? Remember how calm he was, how he never yelled at us?
The weekend was blazing hot, but we managed to distract ourselves with multiple games of deck tennis and lots of unhealthy food.
We don’t get to see this side of the family very much, so this was a cherished weekend. How nice it was to be reminded of where you came from, the qualities and predispositions that you bear, silently and mysteriously inherited.
We came home the morning before our second anniversary. To celebrate, we went to Ten for dinner. I’ve been waiting for two years now to go to Ten, and it did not disappoint (even though it made me miss Japan and my host mom’s cooking more than ever). We sat across from each other and smiled, marveling at how quickly time has passed. Wasn’t it just yesterday that we were dragging luggage into a hotel, still decked out in our wedding garb?
And now we are happy to be back to our new home, reunited with Pyrrha and our sprawling garden and out-of-control lawn. I am looking forward to doing nothing in particular all summer.
In my universe, there is nothing quite like a perfect grapefruit. I had one yesterday at lunch and was rushed to a very specific–and yet seemingly random–prayer for a person: my paternal grandfather.
I have only seen him a few times in my life. Papa John now lives in Indianapolis with his third wife. He suffers from rapidly progressing Alzheimer’s. Despite only having seen him a dozen or so times, the recollection of his voice is very clear to me. Recalling the mischievous twinkle in his eyes is not difficult, because I see it so often in my own father’s eyes.
Since I was young, I have always reflected upon what a strange thing it is to be a stranger to your own grandfather. He knows my name, but I imagine he does not even know that anymore. He is the man of mystery, the significant relative cloaked in shadow. He never called, never wrote. We had to trek out to the bleak and yet beautiful landscape of Indiana countryside if we wanted to see him at all.
Most of what I know about Papa John is wrapped up in late-night fables from Dad about his mythical childhood in the Midwest. I know that he owned a small airport in a great big field. I know that he was a bodybuilder, a used car salesman with a weakness for younger women. I know that he was probably a difficult father to have, and yet I have never doubted the love my father had for him when he spoke about Papa John. And I know that he loved grapefruit.
I have loved grapefruit since I was a child and I will always remember the morning that Dad told me one simple fact: “Your Papa John loved grapefruit, too. He ate it all the time.” I was young and I clung to this one fact about my distant grandfather. It was the only connection I had with him: We both loved grapefruit.
Since then, I think of him whenever I eat it. I don’t ever put sugar on it, just like him. I eat it with an impatient eagerness. (Mrs. Whitman knew of my love for grapefruit and she gave me a beautiful set of silver grapefruit spoons when I was only 16. She told me to save them for when I got married, but I used them anyway). So, I keep eating grapefruit and thinking of him. I wonder how he is and I say a short prayer right before a jet of grapefruit juice shoots me in the eye.