I distinctly remember that two nights before my grandfather— known as Gramps— passed away, he was watching the movie “Giant.” Or rather, the movie “Giant” was playing in the background of his life. I don’t know if he was sleeping or awake, at that point it didn’t really make a difference. But I do remember being struck by this man in bed who, in the eyes of my mother, was such a giant in life. From his weirdly trans-continental accent, to his glam girlfriends, to his love for classic films, Gramps was the quintessential leading man. Except for the very evident reality that he had one leg.
See, Gramps lost his leg in World War II. I don’t know how. I don’t know many who completely know the truth. I’m such an open person that it always surprises me when realities are sort of shoved under the rug. I just think he didn’t like to talk about it. When I asked, I’d get all sorts of silly answers, but nothing that quite resembled the truth. Maybe he didn’t even really know.
Regardless, when I was little, I loved knocking on his wooden leg. I loved that he had crutches. I loved that when he fell out of the chair at restaurants he’d laugh. I saw it for the positives, probably because I was younger, but I certainly did not acknowledge all the tremendous trials that came with his circumstances.
By the time we were quasi-watching “Giant,” Gramps wasn’t really Gramps. And I was older, and it seemed way less of an adventure to live with one leg. It was sadder, and scared me a little more. It made me want to wake him up from whatever cloudy world he was living in and say, “I think you are brave! I think you are so very, very brave for being able to spin this so positively.”
Of course, that wasn’t possible. Lucidity is hard to recapture when it’s gone…but I do remember sitting next to him with my siblings and reading Walter the Farting Dog, “Giant” still playing in the background. That’s another thing about Gramps that was so great. This GIANT, to me, to my mom, to our family, was totally someone that would have loved a book about a gassy dog. And a movie about oil and Texas and Liz Taylor. Debonair and devilish.
I was just thinking about him today…thinking about movies and oldies and goodies.