Boo burst in the door of my mother's house today and upon seeing my almost-91 year old grandfather (who has many more bad days lately than good ones) greeted him with this:
"You know what my Mommy told me? She says you're going to die soon!"
We were all somewhat speechless for a moment, then laughed somewhat nervously, and then I said, "I don't think so, Boo. I think Grandpop-pop is going to outlive all of us."
For the record, I've never voiced any such sentiments to Boo about his great-grandfather's demise. (He may have heard a conversation or two between The Dean and I about my grandfather's poor health.) However, the likelihood is that it's very possible that we just celebrated the last Christmas with my grandfather. One never knows these things, of course. Given the way things tend to go in my family, he very well may outlive all of us.
I'm a compulsive picture taker, but for some reason, I don't take many photos of my side of the family, particularly of my grandfather. Maybe it's because I remember him differently, as the grandfather who climbed ladders with ease while wallpapering our entire house in a weekend, or the grandfather who cooked the majority of our holiday dinners (he made the best damn mashed potatoes ever). I don't know this fragile soul for whom even taking the smallest of baby steps is an exercise in searing, agonizing pain.
There's something macabre about taking photos of someone who is unwell, who knows exactly why you're pleading with your children to pose next to him while threatening to FedEx all their Christmas presents straight back to the North Pole if they don't comply right this very second.
But despite the awkwardness, despite Betty's pouting and Boo making a goofy face, despite my grandfather laughing at their antics, and despite my mother and I admonishing all three of them to be serious for a moment, I snapped the picture anyway.
And then hugs, kisses, I love you's and you-take-care-of-yourselves. Casual but weighty goodbyes as we donned coats and carried gifts and children out to the car. On the garden path in the dark, crisp Christmas air, I caught a glimpse of my grandfather in the window, sitting serenely in the empty family room, waiting, bathed in the light.