Yesterday, I worked from home, performing labor that would scarcely be recognizable as work to a man whose career was spent in a chemical factory. On my way there, after dropping Christina off at school, mom called to let me know he had passed in the night. It's not as if it was unexpected; on the contrary, the only suprise in his declining health was that Grandmom preceeded him in death. I started to calculate how to sort out my schedule to make the inevitable trip back east. I had a pretty clear picture by that evening when mom called again as I stood on the wind-whipped western steps of the Carver Library. She commented slightly cryptically that there wouldn't be a service; for a moment, part of my mind raced to bizarre soap opera/comic book possibilites, while another part readied a quip about checking for a pulse. But it wasn't some dramatic misjudgement. His body has been left to science, I was told. The memorial won't be held until they're done and the ashes are returned, a morbidly ironic state for such an avid producer of ash.

We only ever had one real conversation. They came down to Cape May the summer of 1998, when Angie and I were there on vacation at the house her family rented for a couple weeks each summer. Grandmom stayed inside to talk my future parents'- and grandparents'-in-law ears off, as she was given to (and quite skilled at) doing. We walked out on the porch, he and I. The afternoon was overcast and warm, but a steady breeze blew in off the Atlantic, only yards away at the end of the block. Away from the chatter, we talked. In those fifteen minutes or so, Grandpop and I spoke more than the rest of the 28 years we shared combined. My world must have seemed rather alien to him, but he soaked up the answers to his questions about my studies and my work and my life in general. His voice was always quiet, creaky and rough, beaten into submission by a smoking habit adopted in early adolescence. I think he approved of how I'd turned out, even if the details of how exactly that was were a touch hazy. By the time Grandmom emerged from the front door to suggest that I take Angie and get lost until dinnertime, we had fallen silent, watching the breakers and enjoying the breeze.

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