As I grew older and more jaded (or maybe realistic?), my understanding of Grandpa Jim began to change, to grow more deep and less naive. I began to see not only his strength and beauty more clearly, but also his vulnerabilities and flaws. His huge dependence upon my grandmother and his nearly-smothering love for her. His ridiculous prejudices and immense secrets, especially those in regards to a distant past he rarely spoke of. Vast holes in him caused by the war, his childhood, the times before his brain tumour. His very complicated relationships with his own children, which contrasted so greatly against the absolutely uncomplicated one he had with me and my sister. His ability to anger too easily and his need to feel at the centre of things at all times - a need which grew greater the more frail he became. But it's not only his failings and frailties that I noticed as I aged...I also grew to appreciate his intelligence, his candour, his dry sarcastic wit, his generosity, and - most selfishly - his ability to love me no matter what ugliness I showed him, whether that be shocking blue hair or a shocking foul mouth.
To use a cliché, life is full of regrets. I regret I didn't spend more time with you before you died Jim. I regret I didn't know you at your end as well as I did at my own beginning. I regret not being home for your funeral, immensely. But please know that I am also grateful. I am grateful for the things you taught me growing up, especially the love of books, swimming, vegetables, cards, and just generally having a good time. I'm also very grateful that the final years of your life brought so many good things back into my own, especially as it relates to my Dad. You were the anchor which tied him to Columbus for the last several years, and his grandchildren are reaping the benefits of having their 'Grandpa Longhair' nearby and loving them so.
Thank you for everything Grandpa. I miss you already.