This is a piece I wrote about my Grandpa the weekend after Veterans Day 2010. Eleven years have passed since then, but I still think about my grandpa a lot, including on weekends after Veterans Day. The website where I originally published this is long gone. And most of what went with it doesn’t need to be revived. But part of the impetus for the piece was to leave a sort of digital time capsule. So I’m leaving it here again for posterity. (Thanks to my mom for fact-checking this and making a few minor corrections.)
November 14, 2010
He was 81 years old when he died. I was 22. That’s pretty good.
His name was Charles A. Grigus Sr. But everyone I knew called him Carl, Dad, or Grandpa. I called him Grandpa. And not long before he died, we lived under the same roof for a while.
I remember hearing him walk down the stairs of the basement I’d be passed out in. I remember it happening on late mornings after late nights, and I remember it happening often.
In the basement freezer there were ice cream bars and microwavable White Castle cheeseburgers. He’d take some with him and walk slowly back up the stairs. Not long after he’d walk slowly back down. He’d open the freezer, close it, look my way, then let out something between a chuckle and a giggle and say, “Boy, you don’t know how good you've got it.”
I remember him telling stories about the war. I remember the one where it’s June 5, 1944 and he’s just crashed in a field near the beaches of Normandy. And he’s 22. And it’s how he knows how good I’ve got it.
I remember growing closer to him during this time. But I also remember there being a lot of stories that I didn’t listen to very well. I remember there being a lot of time that I could have spent with him, but didn’t.
I remember leaving the house some nights and seeing him sitting by himself. Watching old war documentaries. Crying. I remember not saying anything, leaving anyway, staying out later and passing out harder.
Stairs, freezer, stairs, etc.
Regret is a tricky word. It’s logically very hard to look back and regret the actions of a completely different person. It’s instinctively very easy.
I was 24 when my mind was reset—certain events happening as they did, crazy world being what it is.
It was a liberating time. I started to see things very differently. But some of the things were no longer there. You know the song.
Charles A. Grigus Sr. was out walking near his home in Florida when he had a stroke and eventually died. An 81-year-old veteran of World War II. That’s pretty good.
My reason for writing this is not to send a belated Thank You up to the heavens, or wherever. It’s a cute story but not one that I believe in. No, my reason for writing this is a selfish one. It’s my way to spend a little more time with my grandpa, and to come to terms with the times when I didn’t. It’s why I googled his name on Veterans Day. And it’s how I discovered that someone else wrote down some of his words, 16 years ago in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel—the ones where it’s June 5, 1944 and he’s just crashed in a field near the beaches of Normandy.
And I’m glad they did. Writing helps.
And maybe, if on some other day, some other person decides to go searching for one Charles A. Grigus Sr., maybe they’ll end up here. And maybe it will make them smile to read that, in addition to what they may have read in his obituary, he also liked ice cream, White Castle, walking, and telling war stories. And he is missed.
The Die Is Cast | by Bob Knotts and Michael E. Young
When I first wrote this, I don’t think it ever occurred to me that it might also one day serve as a time capsule for me. But it has. Maybe I will venture into the weirdness of that experience someday, and its constituent uppers and downers, but not today. That said, if you have any related stories you’d like to share—about Veterans Day, a family member or friend you miss, a time capsule you’ve left behind, or one you’ve discovered—leave a comment or hit reply.