“How was your day?”
It’s been asked of me by my parents / grandparents / aunts / uncles / lovers / boyfriends / friends / grocery store clerks too many times to count.
I dread answering it every time. It’s so broad. Too much. Seems like an insurmountable task to sum up my day and all the emotions I felt over the past twelve hours. As if you just asked me to wash an elephant in a teacup.
But recently that dreaded question became fragile when I flew to California to visit my grandfather who is nearing the end of his light. On the plane ride out I prepared a neat little speech in my head, wrapped up with a bow about how happy I was in my life. I wanted my assurance of happiness to be imparted on him during what could be our last interaction.
Because isn’t that what a grandfather, or any elderly figure, wants to hear from the young? That they are happy. When faced with not much time, what else matters besides your loved one’s happiness and health?
When I got there he stirred from his slumber and saw me and smiled. He asked me to come sit next to him, hold his hand, and then said, “tell me what you are up to.”
And that’s when I broke down and the entirety of the neat little speech all wrapped up in the bow flew out the window on the back of a crow.
Instead I just started crying and we were both a little confused as to what was happening. He was confused because he is very hard of hearing and couldn’t understand me through my sobs, and I was confused because I didn’t know why that banal question triggered waterworks that could have turned the Mojave Desert into the Amazon Rainforest.
So much for him thinking I’m happy.
When I dare myself to think about him leaving this realm, the thing that makes my throat tighten is the idea that I won’t be able to partake in the simple act of telling him what I’m doing these days (though as someone who never owned a cell phone or logged onto the Internet, he barely understands my job, but that’s another story).
I’m reckoning with the fact that it’s not just his life that ends, but that this is where he will cease to know the events of mine. He will soon no longer bear witness to my life.
For the past few years, as my grandfather was sensing this time approaching, whenever I said goodbye to him at the end of family gatherings, his parting words with chocked back tears were, “you’ll always do the right thing, won’t you?”
Such a simple and profound ask. And I can’t think of one better when faced with the fact that soon he won’t be around to witness my actions.
So do the right thing. Take the time to stop and tell your lover how your day was. Call your parents back. Take the time to tell your grandparents what you’re up to and explain the concept of Twitter. Let them be a witness to your life. Let them love you.
Because the bravest thing one can do is love something that death can touch.