A Letter I Wrote to My Grandpa – who taught me what love is

28 Mar


It’s February 9th and I’m 27 and half years old.  Today I was sitting on the bus, going down Market street like I do every day.  The bus is usually filled with vaguely disturbed people and a few normal smatterings, so daily I slink down in the seat with my headphones and avoid making eye contact with my fellow passengers.

However, today I glanced out the window at 7th and Market and was surprised by the sight of two elderly people in their 60s or 70s holding hands.  The woman’s body was fully turned toward the man and she was chattering away, probably about nothing, her whole being was lit with love.

The man’s hand in hers, and he stared at the ground with a crinkled smile, punctuating the woman’s commentary with a laugh or soft comment all the while never glancing at her, and yet that didn’t matter,  For he so clearly adored being adored, so clearly appreciated his partner’s care-taking.

I’ll never know what they were talking about, if they were married or not, their history, but I’ll always know that I’ve seen you and Grandma stand that similar way, but with less hand-holding.

I’ll always know how Grandma looked at you, how when I was 16 years old, after some chocolate liquor that she said was, “just chocolate,” she confessed how she still felt about you.

I know I’ll never know the married challenges you and grandma have gone through, nor will I know all the ways that you’ve probably hurt one another.  I’ll never know how you really feel now; that after decades of living together to watch one another’s bodies break; about the exhaustion of those decades and how like the body marriage must wear and tear the same way.

Still, I’ll always know that you love and loved one another; that you never walked away on what you created together; that an old couple standing at the bus can make my heart fill because they remind me of you.

When we chatted last week, and you shared more of your own personal story, I was struck by how much I’ll never know about you and Grandma’s lives, and I know there are some things you would never want me knowing.

However, depsite that, despite what you might view as “your mistakes”, or what we all do wrong sometimes, and trust me I’ve done plenty.  I was touched by how you have quietly taken care of those you love for your entire life and have never asked thanks for it.

You started a company and took in your brother-in-law, you took in your wife sister’s children, you took in your wife’s mother, and you told me in your letter that “love is a way of being in the world,” and I saw exactly how you’ve been that love.

There are some things you’ll never know about me.

You’ll never know all of the experiences that have shaped me these past few years, the sleepless nights, the doubt, the late evenings full of dancing and friends, the overwhelming feeling that life is so fast and I’m one step behind, the heartbreak, the beauty of waking up daily in a city full of mountains, the quiet of running along the Bay, the sailboats, the hours spent on the phone consoling others and being consoled.

The standing in a mansion in ‘the hills’ at a Moroccan-themed party, the hours wasted in parks on a blanket with people hula-hopping nearby, the burst of color called the Conservatory of Flowers, the search professionally for my place, the being wrong and right and wrong again, and the many other experiences and people that have woven my tapestry, which will one day be my shroud of memory.

However,  you will always know my heart, and my beginning, my kaleidoscope self that shift tones, making me who I am.

I’ll never know so much of the same, but I will know how you love and loved, how you evolved from a man of action to one who occasionally shares his words for feeling.

As I stride through life with all of my dreams and doubt, I will continue to keep what you lived – love as a way of being.

I love you,



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