it was february 19, 1999. ill never forget the day. you don't really forget the details of the day when you find out someone you love has died. it was an icy & dark evening. my mother upstairs making dinner, my sisters and i hanging out in the basement with the TV on. the phone rang. i could hear the panic in her voice. the hard clang of her hanging up the phone seemed to echo with her forceful and frantic hand. she raced down the stairs to us and let out a tearful yelp "Dziadzi DIED!" and began to cry, with her hands over her mouth and her eyes closed. my younger sister about 7 years old then totally broke down to the floor and my older sister and i speechless & broken hearted.
Dziadzi, which is Polish for grandfather was not ill. had not been sick. he dropped dead from a heart attack after shoveling the snowy drive way 2 days before. he had been hospitalized for observation and the next day he would go to burlington for more tests. he didn't make it.
i remember getting our jackets on, abandoning dinner and the TV. we were at the hospital, in a private room and my grandmother just sat there with a glaze and distracted distance, almost as if she was living these moments in a dream.
i saw him. we all saw him. he looked the same, but not moving. i touched his nose and stared and watched him. it was him, but lifeless.
we all went to my grandmother, Babci's. the moment i entered the house, i ran up to her dresser to stare at the black and white framed photograph she had of him. we use to walk pass it when we were younger, but this time, at this moment of loss, it meant everything in the world to me. i couldn't stop staring at it, or thinking of it. it was taken before i was born, a younger version of the grandfather i knew, but it was still him. how he is sitting, that classic expression of a half smile, half scowl, his clothes. that look is SOO him! i never knew him as a smoker, but you can peek into his life pre-grandchildren and previous habits.