I thought it only fitting to kick off my online people collection with the one person who thus far has been the hardest to let go of: my Grandpa Terry. Yes I am still a little pissed at him for leaving us so early but how can anyone ever really be pissed at someone that added so much color and fun to life while he was here?
He was a “legend in his own mind” as he always used to say and he left us with so many great quotes to remember him by, my favorite being “if you’re gonna be stupid, you gotta be tough”.
I think everyone should have a scotch drinking, race car driving, tall tale telling, arm chair philosophizing grandpa like mine who would whisper such wisdom in your ear like “be careful of that one. She’s what I like to call a sexual intellectual….” Pause for my …what on earth are you talking about now grandpa? look… and then his signature mischievous glint right back at me as he says quite proudly “an f-ing know it all”
Oh my god, how I loved the, oh so eccentric, man that was my grandpa. It felt like having my own private Doc Brown, George Carlin and George Burns all rolled into one. One minute he was off on a sailing adventure, the next he was working as a nuclear technician, then he was building kit cars, the next he was a ladies man asking me, in a very Groucho Marx kind of way, not to call him grandpa in public because I was getting too big and it was cramping his style, and the inventions – all the crazy inventions that littered his warehouse – they were endless and fun too. He used to say that the reason his brain moved so fast was because in his driving days he had had to learn how to think at 200 miles an hour.
I remember one time when I was living in Venice, CA he called me up one day and said “hey, I’m gonna be in town tomorrow and would love to stop by.” “You’re in town?” I said. He lived in Florida but he was just gonna pop by. And so he did, the next day he pulled up in the turtle, as we loved to call his Winnebago. So I threw a BBQ in his honor and my friends were all like “that’s so sweet. You’re grandpa’s coming” and I’m thinking… these people have no idea. It was 5 am and my “grandpa” was still up philosophizing with one of the uber brainy programmers that used to work at Diego’s gaming company when I finally had to tell them its time for bed people!!!
He was sweet and sentimental too. I remember one time I gave him this collage of the whole family for Christmas, it was filled with pictures of all of us, young and old. I made it for him largely because I wanted to give him something great and I had no cash so I just needed to make something, but I never suspected that it would stop him in his tracks. He opened up the present and then looked at me with a look I will never forget, like I had just done something worthy of a nobel peace prize, and then he took that collage into the spare bedroom and stared at it for hours. He would explain to everyone who would come in and listen what each picture meant to him and why it was so important and then told me that I gave him his life back. He said he had lost all of his pictures in the divorce but now he was happy because he had this. My uncle John also gave him a cap that year that said Patriarch and he wore that thing proudly at all our reunions from there on out.
I’ll never forget when he told me he was sick. He sat me down and got uncharacteristically serious, looked me in the eye and said “so the doc says I’ve got the cancer. They’re gonna have to remove my bladder and put in a colostomy bag” We both paused for a few moments and the silence was deadening, and then there was that devilish leprechauny glint again as he said with perfect comedic timing “so I’m looking for a bag lady now.” And added “don’t you worry about me. I figure I can make millions off the inventions. I’ve already got one. I’m thinking what I’ll do is run a hose from the bag up my side and attach it to one of those hats, you know the ones that have the pinwheel on top, except I’ll put a sprinkler head on it, this way when someone makes me mad I can just turn on the sprinkler, click click, click click, and say piss on you!” Only he could make something so awful, so damn funny.
He gave me the honor of letting me be the one in the room right beside him as he took his last breath. I had been appointed by his children (my mom, Aunt Kim and Uncle Pat) to let him know that they were going to be okay and that he could go ahead and go off on his next adventure and so I did, I told him how much we all loved him but that we didn’t want him to hang on for us anymore and then through the stifled tears I got that little glint in my eye as I said my last words to him “hey grandpa, at least you won’t have to pay any more taxes.” He passed shortly thereafter but I know somewhere he was giggling at that last statement. He really hated taxes.
I guess it’s been hard to let him go because no one understood me like he did and it’s been hard to be me without him. He wasn’t fooled by my cute little people suit, he knew all too well that behind the innocent giggle that I was really just like him, that despite appearances what lurked inside me was an eccentric old man with an odd an inappropriate sense of humor just dieing to burst free.
You left me some seriously tough shoes to fill Grandpa but I’m working up the courage to jump in them. If some day there is a kid out there that gets to say with love “oh my god, my grandma is so crazy!” then we’ll know I’ve done it. Wherever you are Patrick Terry Flynn… I love you!!! Thanks for giving me no prayer of ever being normal.