I have grown up without the presence of Grandpas in my life. My Grandpa Lyle passed away before my parents were married, and my Grandpa Louie when I was a year old. I never got to know either of them but I wish I could have.
As a kid, this never bothered me. I was oblivious to the missing pieces in my family. I knew that my mom would get sad on Grandpa’s birthday every year, and that the notes my dad had from his own dad were priceless artifacts to him. To me they were just disembodied voices and pictures on mantels. I didn’t know how to love them or miss them.
A few years ago, I began to notice the missing pieces. Weirdly enough, it didn’t set in until I started spending time with my then-boyfriends family. He was so close to his grandparents, and especially his grandfather. I realized that I had never known two men who might have taken me fishing, tortured my boyfriends, and told me stories of the wars they had seen. I’d never seen my Grandmas in love or my parents talking with their dads-like I do on a daily basis.
I began to miss two people who I didn’t even know. I couldn’t pick out their voice or see how they would sit on the couch watching tv after work. I’d missed out on a piece of my history, and it bothered me.
For the first time this year, I spent a few minutes of my Memorial Day thanking my Grandpas for their service. In that moment I felt closer to them than I ever had before. I could almost feel them there in the room with me. They were chuckling at me because there was “no reason to cry”, they were always right there with me. And I believe that now.
From that day, I’ve began making an effort to know them better. Asking my mom about Louie, and finding the pictures we had together; me as a baby, and him with a giant smile on his face. Learning more about Lyle’s past, and trying to find the characteristics my dad remembers so fondly of him, in myself.
I hope they are watching, from wherever they are. I know they are smiling, crying, and laughing along with me. Watching me fall and helping me up without my knowledge. I know they are proud of me, of everything I have done. In my heart, I know that they were there standing along with the rest of my family at my graduation, sitting in the backseat of my drivers test, and standing along with the crowd at every performance. Grandpa Louie smiles every time we drive his truck with the new “Chapman Dad” sticker on it, and Grandpa Lyle sits with Rhia on the stairs, waiting for everyone to get home safely.
These two men have changed my life without even being here. They inspire me to live more honestly, and to love fully. Every day, I wish that they could be here in more than spirit, but I know that someday I will get to meet them. Someday I will get to sit down on the couch, and hear the voices of my grandpas, and get to meet the other pieces of my family.