The brutal, heart-shattering truth is that Molly and Eleanor are not going to remember as much about Grandpa Chuck as I would like. They are 3 and 5 and their brains aren’t yet able to grasp a bigger picture. They will see pictures and connect with his memory. They will make out his face and maybe recall a voice saying, “Love ya,” but they’ll never get to ask the kind of questions needed to form a richer version of Grandpa’s life here with us.
But, you know what? That will be our job. We will fill in those blanks, however dangerous it may be, as the problem with recalling fond memories is that it clashes conflicting air masses in my brain. The parts that are warmed and joyful at pleasant memories rush over the half is heavy and cold out of missing. But that’s life, isn’t it? Or maybe meteorology? I’m not sure. Whatever it is, I usually end up crying.
My Sweet Little Girls, there are a few things I want you to know about your Grandpa Chuck.
Your grandfather, above all, was a very generous man. He and grandma made smart decisions, lived within their means and worked hard their whole lives to accumulate enough to share their wealth. Whether financial, automotive, (usually in the form of a minivan) whether it was their love, their time, their attention, grandma’s coupons: They kept none of this wealth for themselves. They poured it all out on us. And on you girls especially. When we were not with him, Grandpa would collect little treasures to share. He’d see things on TV or the Internet that made him think of me or of you or your father. And when we’d visit he’d share them as if he’d been waiting his whole life to tell us the story. It was always clear that he had his sons and daughters and grandkids on his mind when we were apart.
When I first came into your grandpa’s life about 15 years ago, I was intimidated. He’d probably be surprised by that, but the same quick wit and dry humor that drew me to your father originated here–or at least half of it did. The trademark Teter Banter is an artform worthy of an audience. Looking back, I really should have put some of those discussions on YouTube. But Grandpa was a private person, and he was perfectly content with an audience of other cerebral Teters, and they all spoke in riddles.
In particular, your Grandpa and your uncles and your dad fed off each other at a rapid pace, firing back retorts, jumping from joke to movie reference to joke-said-8-minutes-ago and a back again. It was eat or be eaten in the most playful and comfortable way. And they did it without props. No booze, no drugs, no smokes. It was pure. I had to be on the top of my game to keep up, but they always made it look easy. For a while I was lucky to understand half of what anybody was talking about. Not surprisingly, it took me a few years to realize he called me, “La-La Lyndsey,” NOT because he simply was emphasizing the first letter in my name.
As the years passed, I was able to keep up and play along a little better. And girls, there may be nothing more fun on this Earth than sitting over on Washington Avenue and chewing the fat with those boys. Some of my favorite discussions came out of that room–whether it was arguments about the shape of chicken nuggets, the various misuse of words, Hitler, show tunes, that unintentionally crude thing Grandma said … my God. I already grieve those moments.
In early fall we found out grandpa had lung cancer. I was warned by friends that had gone through it with their own parents that this nasty disease would attack quickly, but I was naive. I had no idea what that would look like in my own family. Surely we had years left with grandpa. Surely there was no rush. But cancer snuck in and robbed grandpa of some time I would rather have spent with him. Time I’d rather shoot the breeze, quite honestly. But as he sat in the hospital, your grandpa told me he could not be upset; that he’d had the privilege and joy of roaming the Earth for 70 years. He’d seen his kids grow up to be good men who married super/perfect wives (Emphasis added.) He had lived to see all of his beautiful grandchildren born. He had held babies and played and lived a rich, full life and and could not complain about a little thing like cancer.
Of course, I told your grandpa I wasn’t ready. I wanted more time with him and more time for you girls to get to know him. He promised to mention this to Peter at the Pearly Gates, to see if maybe he would be offered an reprieve on my account. “I know this is normally not how it goes around here, but my daughter-in-law would rather wait.” It’s exactly that kind of inappropriate and hilarious response that I’m going to miss in the first place.
We didn’t know how quickly it would take him. I would not be surprised if Grandpa Chuck had an idea. I will always claim that Grandpa was a bit clairvoyant. Either that or really lucky. (I’m not sure which theory his lack of winnings at Vegas disproves, but hey, everybody can make their own call.) Grandpa correctly guessed the gender of every single one of his grandkids, and a few that weren’t his own, including my sister’s. He said he’d get, “a feeling,” and looking back I could have saved a lot of money on ultrasounds. Before Seth and I even talked about starting a family, right after your cousins Jacob and Owen were born and we were wondering about the possibility of females in the family, he looked right at me and said, “Now you … you’re going to have girls.” Add in a few more correctly predicted OSU football games, and I’m calling it: wizard.
Even after a round of chemo, just a week before his death, even as cancer was taking his body, he properly called the OSU score in the National Championship game versus the Ducks. I’m just saying. Even the worst kind of cancer in the world could not dull his sorcery.
And while we’re at it … that was such a fun night, girls. A week to the day before grandpa passed, we all packed up and headed down to Washington Avenue to watch the Bucks bring home a National Championship. You girls ran around yelling, “Go Scarlet!” the whole night and grandpa put every ounce of his strength into staying awake for that game. His body wasn’t cooperating, but he fought so hard and he was so brave and he could barely lift his arms to cheer, but he did anyway. He gave us all high fives as the Bucks intercepted to end the game. He was so brave, girls. And he loved you so much. That was the last night you ever saw him, and it was a beautiful night. It could not have been more perfect. Ezekiel Elliot and his midriff. Grandpa with his girls and your grandma and your dad and Uncle Aaron. The Buckeyes could win the National Title every year from here on out, and they might under Urban Meyer, but it will never be as sweet as it was that night.
He loved you girls. He loved you so much. You would spend the night with him and grandma and we’d come to pick you up and he would talk about how incredibly smart and articulate you were. He was always impressed with Molly’s ability to retain information and Eleanor’s insanely huge vocabulary. And he loved to spoil you with Smarties, and always the classic “papascicle,” in those yellow plastic bowls. He’d let you dress him up and pester him and wrestle with him, and he just enjoyed being around you guys. Molly, you told me today that you’re favorite memory was when Grandpa would play Skeletor with you. Eleanor loved to play the Cheerio game.
I’m so sad, girls. I’m going to miss your grandpa so much. It’s going to be hard to get together as a family without him being there. It just won’t ever be the same. But I’m going to try to take a page from your Grandpa Chuck. I’m going to try to be happy and remember the blessing of the good times we had together. What have I to be upset about? I had a wonderful father-in-law, and we had many good years together. Besides, it probably would never be enough.