In my lifetime, I’ve gone through different stages when it comes to jewelry. There was a time, in my early twenties, when I had rings for every finger. I’ve had favorite bracelets, and a slew of watches to match different moods. My ears are pierced, twice, and I used to love finding unique ways to express myself with different symbols. And, of course, I’ve worn three different sets of wedding/engagement rings…..
During the last decade or so, my jewelry has been sitting in a box designed and created by my father. I barely look at it anymore. I suppose it’s got something to do with the limited amount of time I spend out of the house, but still, my collection is there collecting dust. The only piece I wear, the one object that never leaves my neck, is a gold chain that used to be worn by my grandfather. I inherited it when he passed away in 1993. This very active, always funny, “ladies man” was suddenly and unexpectedly reduced to a fraction of his former self by a brain tumor. It was discovered one autumn day in 1992 when he relayed to friends that he thought it was 1970 and he was in Baltimore – over thirty miles away from his current position in downtown Frederick, MD. The diagnostic process, the surgery to remove it, and the limited recovery lasted only a few months, but it was devastating for him and for me. The last time I saw him was when we were forced to move him to a nursing home for his own safety. It was excruciatingly painful to admit that we could no longer provide the level of care that he needed. His stay there was brief. He only lasted a matter of days before he left this world for his next adventure.
As I sit here fingering my precious keepsake, noting the kinks in the smooth surface from over use, I think about how he would not want me to remember those last few months. He’d much rather I remember the jokes we’d play on each other, the songs he’d sing as he cooked me dinner in his bachelor’s kitchen. He’d want me to think about his favorite cat, Joe, who jumped through the glass in his front door and received a special diet and extra care from my grandfather for the remainder of their time together. He’d call me by my mother’s name, or her by mine, just to see our reaction. He’d call to talk on the phone and the conversations were never short. They almost always included some detail about what a wonderful young man my brother had become. He loved us and we depended on him more than anyone else.
Today, I’ll spend Memorial Day remembering my Granddaddy Bill – a positive male influence in my life, and WWII Coast Guard veteran – with one of his favorite songs to sing, hum, or whistle, Strangers in the Night by Frank Sinatra.
Happy Memorial Day!