11 years ago, to the day. It's even the same day of the week, actually.
It was a typical wintry day, although still dark out. Throughout the city, everyone was snuggled under the covers. The wind blew the top snow around a little every now and then. The icicles glistened as they slowly melted. Spring was on its way, though far off on the horizon. The world was quiet. At a time when all the children should be asleep in their beds, we were awakened by the shrill bring-ing of the telephone.
"He stopped breathing!"
It was 1 ante meridiem.
I was always his girl. He and I used to read together, go on walks together, do puzzles together, played the same types of games. People sometimes say I remind them of him. Maybe that's just the brain, for he was a very intelligent man. A pastor who served most often as a professor, just like my father now is, he had an incredible memory. He was fascinated with history, and enjoyed languages. Knowledge was his thing. He still knew how to be sneaky, although often that was just a sign of his affection.
He was not a perfect man. He had idiotic quirks, just like everyone else. He never sang hymns at church -- I didn't know if he could -- because he was studying the text and its meaning. He once, famously, flew into a tirade at his Pinochle partner for her choice of play. He was pacing back and forth, fuming, when the scorekeeper informed him quietly, "Dad, you won." He stopped midsentence, whirled around, and said, "What?!" "You won." "Oh," and the matter was dropped. This is remembered fondly.
He was a man of many names. The second [of four thus far] of a family name, he was nicknamed for his light hair initially. In later years, scores of students referred fondly to him as Mudslide -- for the way the skin around his cheeks and mouth sagged. Some students called him, years and years down the road, asking for some sort of assistance, and he always did what he could.
He's the reason, I believe, that I've always been closer to guys than to girls. I'm just more comfortable there, and I believe that's all the time I spent with him when I was young. He was my best friend.
I remember his funeral. He, again, was the only one not singing the hymns. His funeral took place on his wife's birthday. [She still has a picture I drew of him when he was sick, those last few weeks. I coloured his skin yellow.] Had he made it to September, there would have been a 50 year wedding anniversary celebration. He died at age 77 years, of pancreatic cancer.
I remember him on this day, every year. The words echo in my ears -- "He stopped breathing!" -- and my grandfather -- my father's father, the only grandfather I have the pleasure of remembering [but that's a story for another time] -- he was gone.
I miss him.