I remember the funeral. Troy was not even one, but walking already. We sat in the coat closet of the funeral home. I was criss-cross-applesauce on the ground, Brittney and some of my cousins on the couch. On the other side of that door was the wake – your wake, Grandpa.
The door was closed. Was it to keep Troy inside? Or to keep everything else out? The sounds of people reminiscing? The sniffles? The sight of your body in that coffin? We sat in there most of the day and into the evening. Talking about memories.
Square dancing in the living room, as you called out the moves.
The smell of beef jerky waking us up in the morning, but not being able to eat it yet.
Weeks in Michigan at Barbra and Norman’s house on the lake.
We laughed, smiled, reminisced. But, when we walked out of that coat closet, nothing stayed the same. Yes, we are all still family. But, you were our leader, our patriarch. And without you, things changed. You kept us together when you were alive. You gave us places and reasons to gather. You were our glue. But, with you gone, we don’t have the ability to stick. Yes, Uncle Chuck and Uncle Tim still work at the shop. Mom still talks to her sisters. Uncle Pat and his family went to visit Aunt Terri. But, without you, we are groups. We are not one family.
Grandpa, you led and we followed. But in the end, we followed your model, not your words. You had little contact, if any, with your siblings as adults. Now, your kids are repeating your model.
You didn’t give us a model to follow. You didn’t help us know how to keep together when you were gone. Yes, we all love you. I love you. But, I have some anger, too. While I am aware that time passes and things change. And I understand why things – the Runge family – is several separate entities. I don’t like it.
I will show my son – my family – through my example. I will show him the importance of family. I will teach him to forgive and to accept – both by my words and by my actions. I will not be the glue that holds my family together. I will give them what they need to stay together.
Thanks for the lesson, Grandpa.