My Opa passed away when I was about 15 or so. My family lived really far away, and we didn’t see each other often. In fact, I only have a very few memories of him.
Those memories…whew. See, when most people remember a departed grandparent, the memories bring up an emotion. Whether its of PB&J sandwiches with the crusts lovingly cut off or drunken holiday arguments, it all brings up some kind of feeling,
In my case, the feeling is that of complete and utter confusion.
My Opa was an incredibly intelligent man, and was quite skilled in his chosen field of medicine. That isn’t the confusing part, nor is it a strong memory. It is quite simply fact, and to a little kid, all jobs from mailman to neurosurgeon are pretty impressive and grown up.
I get the feeling that he had–probably quite rightly, as that level of education and ability is something to be proud of– a teensy bit of arrogance, or maybe ego, or maybe just enthusiasm about his knowledge. That isn’t confusing either. When people study hard and master something difficult, it is totally understandable. I was going through my own struggles and triumphs with cursive writing at the time, so I totally understood.
The confusing part is that my strongest memories are of him drawing on napkins on our yearly dinners out. Paper, linen, didn’t matter. If it was suitable for wiping one’s fingers, it was also clearly suitable for some learnin’! He’d get all excited about something, and whoops, out came the ballpoint pen from his shirt pocket, and we were all set to get a lesson, complete with diagrams.
Had I, with recent cursive victories on the dastardly letters “m” and “z”, been allowed to draw on napkins to show everyone, I would’ve done it in a heartbeat. My mom was not having any of that though, and while she couldn’t give my Opa a spanking, she could easy give me one, so I sat there, both attentive and envious.
I remember two of these impromptu lectures.
One was vague, and for some reason, it was about showing my sister and I how to properly draw a bird. It’s a shame that this memory is so vague. Drawing birds comes up surprisingly often in my life, because of course it does.
This is a bird. You can tell by the label saying “bird”.
The second lecture is something I will keep with me forever. It was a diagram and instructions on how to perform an emergency tracheotomy with a penknife and Bic pen casing. I don’t know why I would do this, like, ever. I remember it being about if someone has something caught in their throat and the normal methods of using your finger to sweep the mouth or doing the Heimlich Maneuver (Heimlich Remover, to a seven year old) just won’t work. He drew it, then said “like so.”, because apparently, this napkin diagram was pretty much self explanatory.
Like so. If you don’t get it, you’re obviously not trying hard enough.
I think he was showing my dad this, but I took it very seriously. You just never know, right? I felt like I was pretty much ready for anything.
Relax. I’m almost 12% sure that I know what I’m doing with these.
Our meals came then, and no one ever spoke of it again, but that’s pretty much the one and only thing I remember about him. Kids, the lesson here is twofold:
1)when you have grandchildren, make sure you give them interesting life skills to remember you by.
And 2) if you and I ever go out for dinner, make sure you chew very well. You really, really don’t want to choke around me.