“My grandfather died.” That’s how the week leading up to our first wedding anniversary started.
Hannah’s grandfather on her father’s side had been ill for some time, and his care had moved from treatment to pain management. We’d planned a Thanksgiving trip that we knew was likely to be just as much to say goodbye as it was to celebrate the holiday. But life conspired against us, and he passed away early Monday morning. And once again I was on a plane to attend a gathering of the Foarde clan, albeit under sadder circumstances than the last time.
Can you miss somebody you never really knew? I’d only met John Joseph Foarde Jr. once, at our wedding. Even then he was in a pretty fragile state, and with the whirl the entire evening was, I just didn’t have a lot of time to get to know more than his name. But in the three days we spent in Texas for the funeral, surrounded not only by the fond memories of the man but by the six sons, three daughters, and their families he left behind, I started to wish I’d been around him more often. One of the constants I heard was, “With him, once you were in, you were in.” And I found myself wanting to be in. To know the impish old man behind the stories I’d heard rather than the fragile old man I actually met. Now, the rest of Hannah’s family has been nothing but warm and open to me, and they seemed especially appreciative that I’d made the effort to be there along with her. And in a way, seeing all of them together celebrating his life rather than mourning the end of it, I do know him. This open, gracious, boisterous sprawl of a family he left behind is as fine an epitaph as a man could want. But hearing the memories isn’t the same as having them, and I think I’ll always have a tinge of regret at not having memories of him of my own.
And then came the somewhat awkward transition from marking a life ending to marking the start of a new one — our one-year wedding anniversary. A strange juxtaposition to be sure, but also very much in keeping with the celebratory nature of our time in Texas. Rather than dwelling on an ending, it was time to remember a beginning and revel in a continuation. The proximity of the two events underlined that I didn’t just become a part of a marriage, but a part of another family. And that the happiness of a year ago wouldn’t have been possible without the man I saw laid to rest on Wednesday. It’s a bit hokey to say, especially considering I spent the better part of the last two days at Disney World, but the circle of life does indeed go on. Without warthogs and meerkats, but that’s probably for the best.