I did not know my paternal grandfather. He died a week before I was born. I can’t imagine what it must have been like for my dad to lose his father the same week his son is born.
As a kid, I knew we lived in a block house he built, and he started the store my grandmother ran. I’d later learn he started a number of businesses in the small dried up rural Georgia town I grew up in.
He was a meat cutter, carpenter, home builder and entrepreneur. He was also an alcoholic.
I never knew him but the knowledge of his life and death saved my life.
I will always remember driving back to Atlanta on Christmas day 2016. Like so many Christmases before, I’d make the short drive from Harrison to Dublin before grabbing a bottle of whiskey numb the deep sadness that drove me away from where I grew up.
On this fateful trip, I learned on the radio that one of my favorite artists Geoge Michael passed away at age 53.
“If you are in town I’ll host a George Michael listening party tonight and drink whiskey with you. Worst news ever,” I’d post later that night.
I don’t know what made me think of my grandfather in this moment, but I reached out to my Mama to learn about how he died.
He died of a heart attack at age 54 due to complications caused by his alcoholism. He had been sober for at least a decade. Some quick math in me head showed me my possible fate.
I was tired of the chronic physical pain and mental anguish I’d experienced over the last few years, but for the first time, while talking to my Mama sobbing in I75, I saw my mortality and wanted to live.
I quit drinking 6 days later.
I hope one day in the retelling of this story I can find the words to describe just how fantastical and life changing the drive back on Christmas 2016 was for me.
I often wonder how much grandfather and I are alike. In my mind I understand him I think, as only another human with the same DNA and upbringings can. I see myself in what I know of his story.
I fantasize a short retelling of his life as the prologue to the book I’ll likely never have the courage to write.
I will spend the rest of my Christmases remembering my grandfather I never knew.