My grandfather (my dad’s dad), Jim Potts, died on December 21, 2014. We had arrived in Crescent, Oklahoma, the day before to start our Christmas trip. That Tuesday, I met my family in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, where we buried him.
Not really buried. He’s in sort of an outdoor crypt where he was slid into a wall in front of my grandmother’s casket. Upon opening of the crypt, I saw my grandmother’s casket slid way back. That was weird.
I carried hers to the wall, and now his.
We stood and watched the workers close the crypt. He requested no burial service, just something small and personal. I stood with the family, watching, discussing his life, what to do from there, making jokes. I was sad, but it didn’t hit me he was gone at the cemetery. It did in his kitchen.
Before the burial, we met at his house. My father was gathering some things and beginning the process of sorting through my grandfather’s things, which will take a while because the guy kept everything. I hadn’t been back in this house since, I think, 2000, when my grandmother passed away. It was smaller than I remembered. The living room where the family gathered for Christmas, where we went every year until she passed away, wasn’t as large as my memory recalled. I sat on the couch, in the corner, where I used to sit, and looked around.
I remembered what is probably a good example of me being sort of an asshole. My parents didn’t want me to have the video game “Resident Evil.” Well, unbeknownst to them, I asked my grandparents for it. Christmas day, I ripped open a gift and there it was: “Resident Evil: Director’s Cut” on Playstation! I thanked my grandparents then looked at my mother and father, both of whom were none-too-happy.
Last month, I walked around alone and stopped in the kitchen. Dishes in the sink. Food in the refrigerator. Pots of sugar and flour on the counter. Opened boxes of food in the cabinets. And it hit me how much death is sudden. It’s fast. And in the kitchen, it sorta hit me how we are machines. We need water and food to keep the engines running. And we never know when it’ll breakdown. There was food he was going to eat, plates he was going to clean, counters to wash off.
But he won’t clean, won’t eat, won’t cook. His machine had run its course. But we aren’t just machines, and that’s the beauty of things. We have these stupid vessels we have to use to move through life, but we have hearts and souls, humor and smiles, feelings and love. We use these to become immortal because the machine might go but the memories won’t.
Before I left, I looked for a container of Tang in the kitchen. He used to make us Tang at Christmas and I would drink lots and lots of it. Just lots. And he was always happy to pour me a glass. But there wasn’t any Tang. And I was happy because I probably would have lost my shit and started crying. I was also happy because I would have had an internal struggle whether or not to take it, not to save, but to drink.
Because Tang is delicious.
Mark…that meant a lot to me to read. I lost my father in July and I still walk around wondering when he will get to those unfinished projects. You’re right the memories don’t go away when the machine no longer works. Peace is the very enemy of memory though it seems at times. Thank you for writing this to make me stop and think.