My grandpa is turning 80 this year.
It didn’t hit me months ago when my mother reminded me I must come home for Christmas because it is “Grandpa’s 80th birthday” and she wants to throw a big party.
I had to message her last week to reconfirm, “Grandpa’s turning 80?!”
(SPOILER ALERT: This post is evidently about a 27 year-old who is depressed because her grandfather is experiencing the portion of life where you wonder if the grass is truly greener. It’s probably unfair to feel anxious about an experience I am the furthest from while others are living it every day, but my neurosis are completely valid, dammit, and I’d like to share them with you.)
Despite my morbid sense of humor and enjoyment in dark concepts (thanks 1993’s Tim Burton!), I am deeply affected by imagining what your mind goes through when you don’t have a lifetime ahead of you anymore–cue the thoughts of my extremely* healthy grandfather who has at least 20+ years left. (His Italian blood could lap my stepfather’s in a marathon.) I am also equally astonished when I come across elders who can JOKE about death and/or be completely “ready” to move on. When I’m not around anymore, you’ll finally be free! Ha!Ha!Ha!** When I’m not around!? That’s not even something I would say to my boyfriend after a breakup. It’s more like, You will keep my haggard pillowcases and YOU WILL LIKE IT. I LIVE, ALWAYS.
My grandmother was the former type when she passed in 2004. At 68, she was ready. Luckily, my brain was not dysfunctional enough to obsess over how “acceptance of death” is possible. The closest to me empathizing was lying on my dorm room bed the morning after a party with The Rocky Horror Show cast–remnants of “the blue drink” I was told to avoid replaying in my mind (and stomach). I was definitely ready to slip into a permanent subconscious (or at least a solid Matrix escape) at that point.
As a defense mechanism from my young age, I label “THE” end as an abstract concept that isn’t on my docket. I’m not subscribed to it. I have always pictured death to be unconcerned with my existence, as if it bumped into me at LAX*** and scoffed. Nina Elcao? Uck, no. Leave her on earth to throw the word “feminism” around and melt the masses…forever.
Despite my worries on aging–which will never fade–my grandpa remains a supreme example of strength and bravery at his almost-eighty years. He lived and survived through WWII’s bombs and planes in Italy. Following that, he had the balls to get a working visa and move to Rochester, New York with no job and little English (after my boisterous grandma seduced him, no doubt). Then he REALLY had the balls to create three fantastic children, and they continued to pay the DiDomenico**** legacy forward by contributing more human creations to the tribe (the best one being me, duh). Even AFTER those trying experiences, my grandpa is still able to look at the world and those who live in it with pure compassion–something I try hard to obtain after only 27 years. I (and let’s face it, you too) have a long ways to go…
THAT is why I worry. I worry all the good my grandfather has unconsciously kept for himself will dissipate once it’s his turn to meet my grandma again (on the little stone bridge in Italy where they supposedly hooked up for the first time–and y’all wonder where I get my boldness from). THEN the world will be doomed with negativity and solely resort to hashtag-posting to help each other instead of physically working towards a change. Instead of physically leaving your country (because of a WAR) to make something of yourself, like he did. I need people like Italo DiDomenico in my life. He gives me hope. He remains pure, and I don’t want his legacy to end.
What I’m still learning–and what I’d like you to take away from this post–is that fear can only go so far. Once it gets to that brick wall in the back of your head, it crashes into a little million pieces that only a crazy little thing called, “love” can put back together. After love mends the mess, you are able to come back down from your insatiable worries and reconnect the wires in your brain to clearly see what remains, and what remains is always the present moment…
…and sweetheart, you’re still in it.
(Sending all my love to you, Gramps. Here’s to the next twenty years.)
*Adverbs ease anxiety.
**This is my grandpa’s Facebook trademark laugh. Needless to say, my friends are in love with him.
***Despite any flight anxiety, I strongly believe life wouldn’t care enough to give me a quick, plane-crash death. I’d most likely die of a slow cancer.
****Yeah, we’re really fucking Italian.