I wasn't very close to him, both in proximity or in emotion. My memory of my summers under his roof do not serve me well. Did we converse over dinner? What was our interaction like on his farm? What we did we talk about on the numerous road trips around Pennsylvania and beyond? It is hard to remember all but a small handful of conversations we had or a single moment where we were alone together.
I have found the beauty lies in the realization that he was simply there, around the table, on the farm, in the car, steady and unwavering, as present and purposeful as he was in his work and community. He was there in the airport when I arrived by myself as a six year old. After driving twelve hours in his Dodge minivan, he was there to pick me up and take me back for an August at the farm. When my Father and I hitchhiked through Pennsylvania on our way to New York City, he was there to drop us off at a truck stop a few miles down the road.
I cannot remember much about my Grandpa before Parkinson's and age crept up on him. One visit he was walking and talking and the next he was in a home and everything had changed and when visits from across the country are sporadic, it felt like it all happened in a single week.
And now he is here, in a casket, looking young again in a suit. I move my hands over his hands, hold his face and rub his chest and I remember what a cold body feels like.
The last time I saw him was almost three years ago. I told him that he was a good man, mostly because I felt it and also because that sounded like something I would want to be told in my last years with the living.
You are a good man Grandpa.
And you know what he said to me, through tears and eighty-five years of life showing on his face?
I've tried to be.
I've though about these words over and over again, dwelling on such a heartfelt response, letting them sink in, and I find them so incredibly beautiful and genuine and remarkable. For what else more can we ask of ourselves, at the end of our lives, that we tried to be good?
Rest in peace, Leroy Benjamin Grubb.