This March 2018 Reflections is in memory of my Granddad, Charles Miller. Even when someone has had the privilege to age and earn their wrinkles and scars, it still feels too soon when they pass.
On March 19th my mom got the call no daughter wants to get. Her father, my Granddad, was in the hospital and there wasn’t anything doctors could do. She needed to get to Lubbock, Texas to be with him.
A horrible limbo state settled over the whole family. He could pass any second or a month later. We all struggled with making the decision of when to travel.
Did I want to see him in person one last time or did I want to wait and be there for the funeral and memorial service? These questions flew around in my mind at lightning speed over and over.
I kept changing my mind. When I thought from my own perspective, I wanted to be there with everyone else and see him one last time. Even though I knew he wouldn’t recognize me or realize I was there.
But we were all concerned about my Nana after he passed. The person by my Nana’s side for 62 years wouldn’t be there anymore.
And the family, briefly brought together, would all have to leave at the same time. Back to work, back to routine, and back to their daily lives and homes, all far away from Lubbock.
And that’s what stopped me from dropping everything and going immediately. I just put my head down and went to work, waiting for Friday the 29th to come around, when I could travel to Lubbock and stay for the whole first week of April.
The time I usually spend after work blogging and being on social media, I spent watching movies and being in the kitchen. Baking creativity burst out of me like a dam broke and I rode the tide to distract myself from the limbo I was in.
But I couldn’t write or share or blog or be a social media butterfly. It felt stupid, like I was betraying my Granddad and the pain he and my family was in.
I had so many feelings and memories and I was all right in the kitchen, working till my hands got chapped and cracked and my back hurt. But there was a void where my words usually flow, an emotional blockage.
And when he died on Sunday, March 25th, I knew that I wouldn’t be able to publish a blog post, be on Instagram, or share content on Facebook and Twitter until I wrote about my Granddad and what he meant to me, how I’m experiencing his loss, and the power and comfort of creativity.
Charles “Charlie” William Miller, June 19, 1933 – March 25, 2018
My Granddad reminded me of those pristine mountain lakes with glassy smooth surfaces: quiet, calm, collected. But beneath that surface are hidden depths. My Granddad had depth.
He didn’t talk a lot and when he did, he spoke so softly it was hard to hear him. I never once heard him raise his voice in anger and he was always so patient. He taught me that it’s okay to be quiet. That it doesn’t mean you don’t have anything to contribute but that you like to listen to others and wait to say something meaningful.
I’ve talked about my Nana on the blog a lot because I first learned how to bake from her. But the kitchen wasn’t only hers. It was his too. Quiet mornings, the smell of coffee brewing, and climbing the tall bar chairs to sit at the little table island with him are some of my strongest memories.
He was the first up in the mornings and would protect my Nana’s inner sanctum from eager granddaughter’s fascinated by her long morning ritual and beauty routine.
He’d make us French toast and ask if we’d like some toast with our powdered sugar. Or he would pull out cereal variety fun packs and we’d get ecstatic over getting to eat Lucky Charms, Cocoa Puffs, or Captain Crunch instead of the boring stuff.
A survivor of multiple heart surgeries, he supplied the first lessons in overcoming health problems with hard work. Watching him change is diet over the years as new research and recommendations came out gave me the template for dealing with my own struggles.
He loved to understand how things worked, which allowed him to be a lot more technologically advanced than most people his age. I still remember learning how to type on the computer with him and he bought me my first laptop and point and shoot camera.
The Power & Comfort of Creativity
What I’m grateful for most right now is that he was a creator. As a hobbyist woodworker and photographer, his work feels like an extension of him.
Just as creativity helped me through the knowledge that he was going to die, his creativity comforts me now that he’s gone. He’s all around me. He’s in the shelves that hold my photography props, the wooden rack where our ceramic mugs hang, cleverly crafted Christmas reindeer and ornaments, and precious toddler sized rocking chairs.
As I’m writing this, it feels like I’m saying my final good-bye. And that’s why I kept putting it off. It’s too hard and I don’t want to say goodbye. But I need to remember that he lives on and that with each goodbye, there is a hello.
We each have a little of his stubbornness. I see him in my mom’s extreme patience and her ability to repair and figure out how things work. I see him in my photography and in the creative nature my entire family possesses.
And I’m sure we will all continue to see glimpses of him in the future generations to come. When we do, we can say a big warm hello.