When I was six, my grandfather died. It didn’t particularly affect me; I was six after all and didn’t know him very well. I only have one memory of him. I was four at the time. I was on vacation with my parents to visit him, and I had just gotten up and walked out of our camper. The second I stepped out, all the water on the roof of the camper poured off and fell right on top of me. My grandfather was sitting right in front of me, and he burst out laughing. I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone laughing as hysterically since.
It’s nice to have a memory of him happy, especially after what I’ve heard of him. He didn’t sound like he was in a happy situation. Lots of kids, a few ex-wives, and serious heart problems. I have this strange fixation with him, I always have, even when I was younger. My father told me that a few weeks before my grandfather died, I demanded he call my grandfather, so I could talk to him. I said, “Hi,” and then my father talked with him for a while. It was at this moment that my father finally convinced my grandfather to get heart surgery, and he did. I’m not entirely sure of the exact timeline, but he died near the time of the surgery of a heart attack.
My grandfather was stubborn, apparently. Refused to get the surgery for the longest time, and worked himself to death. From what I’ve heard, he worked to get out of his house and avoid his wife. The more I hear about him, the more I realize I probably wouldn’t like him as a person, and yet I still find myself drawn to his story.
When he died, I got nothing from him. Well, that’s not entirely true. I have one thing from my grandfather: watermelon. My mother explained to me that my grandfather taught her how to pick out a perfect watermelon every time. The secret is you have to pick out one with a completely dead stem. It doesn’t matter if the outer shell is a mess; as long as the stem is dead, it’ll be delicious. This has held mostly true, and is also a known fact amongst farmers.
My grandfather is dead, and all I have from him is one memory, and a fact about watermelons. I have friends who have lost grandparents, and they were left books, stories, money, a legacy. I envy them in a way, they got to know who their grandparents were, who they truly were, and even as days pass, they have something to look back on so that they can remember their grandparents, who they came from. Meanwhile, I have to try to remember who my grandfather was almost every day, or my memory will fade as days pass.
I have been told that I was the reason he even decided to get heart surgery. My grandfather once said to my father that he wanted to be around to watch me grow up. He got the surgery to try and buy more time with me, but he was too late. My grandfather was too stubborn about having the surgery, and because of that, we will never know each other.
The other day, my family bought a watermelon. When we get a watermelon, we go through a little ritual on accident. My mother and I carve it, and usually at that time my dad manages to somehow walk in the door from work right as we’re about to taste it. We each take a piece of watermelon and eat it, and every time we say, “This is a good watermelon; thanks grandpa.”
For some reason though, this time it got me thinking. I took another bite, and thought about how delicious this watermelon is. And I realized that my grandfather didn’t just leave me a fact. For a moment in my life, nothing mattered except for how delicious the watermelon I was eating was. I realized that my grandfather had this same thought when he would bite into a watermelon. Despite his life crumbling around him, for a second, he got to bite into a watermelon and think, “This is a good watermelon.” And I thought about that for a while. For one second in my life, nothing mattered but the flavor of the watermelon, and I was happy. This revelation changed my perspective on my grandfather.
My grandfather died when I was six because he was too stubborn to get heart surgery. And what I have left of him is one memory of him happy, and his way of achieving peace for one second. Now whenever I close my eyes as I bite into a watermelon, I get to know exactly how my grandfather felt for a moment. As days pass, I will likely have moments in my life when I feel hopeless. There will be times when I try to work myself to death instead of facing my problems. But when that time comes, at least I will have watermelons.