Grief is Weird: Hosting a Birthday Party at the Graveyard

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Dear Boss,

You were the best friend a guy could ask for. The fact that you were my grandfather made it even better. Just last night, I was helping Ben out of the shower, when he said, "Hey Dada? You're my best friend."

I'm so glad I get to pass that legacy along. 

Speaking of legacy, you always told me how important it was to know the meaning of our names. I knew what "Stephen" meant since I was just a little boy. "Crowned one" or "royalty." You asked me quite often.

And I knew it was important to name my first-born after you: Benjamin, "son of the right hand." "Favored one."

He's your namesake. And he adored you, and you adored him.

He would see you sitting over in that old recliner, and his eyes would widen. You were such a force to be reckoned with. Sure, I knew how wise you were. But Ben got to see you as jovial, whimsical, and unpredictable. Much like a puppy being introduced to an old hound dog - Ben knew just how to get you all wound up. And it was wonderful.

My little buddy sure is missing you. Grief is so weird and complicated and painful and miserable and hard to control. And trying to understand death at six-years-old just plain sucks. I remember how you would weep over the loss of your grandmother each time you'd talk about her, even after all those decades had passed. Loss isn't easy on any of us.

I was driving Ben to school the other day, and he said something he says to me quite often, "Hey Dada, you know you're my best buddy?"

"Yea, bud. You're my best buddy, too. And guess what? Both of my best buddies are named Ben."

I was watching him in the rearview mirror. His eyebrows wrinkled a bit, and then those baby blues widened with understanding. "Bossy," he said with a toothless grin.

"Yea baby, Bossy."

I told him that your birthday is coming soon. "August 28th." His countenance immediately dropped, and he looked sad and confused.

"Are we going to have a birthday party at the graveyard?"

I nearly had to pull over on the side of the road to catch my breath.

I whispered to keep from crying, "Oh, no. No. No. No. No, we won't have a birthday party at the graveyard, buddy. No. We won't do that."

I wanted to vomit.

My Ben's birthday is in just a couple of weeks, too. And like his Daddy, Ben LOVES a birthday party. While he was apprehensive about the graveyard, he still wanted to recognize your birthday.

My God, we miss you so much. The hole that you left around here is much deeper than six measly feet. You were the strongest man I ever knew. The wisest. The funniest. The most approachable and unpredictable. Your crass humor has rubbed off on me, and every single day, I say at least one Boss-ism, and it almost takes my breath away. It's almost like you're still here.

Ben sobbed the other night again, because he misses his Bossy. He just doesn't get it. You were our hero, and all of Ben's heroes get to live forever. Stupid comic books.

"Hey Dada?" he asked from the back seat.

"Yea, pal?" (I was trying my best to hold it together.)

"Could we just take some balloons over to the graveyard for Bossy's birthday?"

He knocked the damn wind right out of my lungs. He wasn't going to let this go.

At the next stop light, I exhaled real big like you always used to do when we'd stump you.

"Sure, little buddy. We can take some balloons over there."

Happy birthday, you old cuss. 

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