"My soul is elsewhere, I'm sure of that. And I intend to end up there." -- Rumi

Sunday, September 25, 2011

In Memoriam

Well, I have been quite the absentee blogger  since leaving for Turkey.  I have quite a bit to share with you, have no doubt.  But I'm afraid that, after putting it off this long, it's going to have to wait a little longer still.

This post is about a very special, very wonderful man in my life, Robert L. O'Connor.  This man is my Grandpa, and he passed away on Friday, September 23, at the age of 89.

His whole life, nothing meant more to Grandpa than family.  Family was paramount.  Family did not just come first -- sometimes it seemed that there simply was nothing after family.  For all of my life, he and his wife Elizabeth, a wife of 65 years, reigned benevelolently over the expansive O'Connor clan.  Three of their five children remained within an hour's drive of their Murray Hill, New Jersey house, and his oldest child -- my mother -- remained so fiercely close to her parents that she spoke to them on the phone nearly every day, and would regularly make the 5-hour drive to visit even for a weekend.  Their house was the epicenter of all things O'Connor, the embodiment of what defined our family.  Bob and Betty O'Connor's children would marry, maybe take different names.  But really it was just the O'Connor clan that was growing.

So it seems only fitting and just that my Grandfather passed away in the very house where he and Grandma raised their five children.  He passed peacefully, in his sleep, surrounded by the family that he and Gradma had devoted their existence to.

I have so many wonderful memories of my Grandfather, and of that house.  When I was still small enough to believe in these things, Grandpa had me convinced that the small chandelier in their downstairs hallway was magic.  He would reach up -- he was tall enough to do this -- and come down with the jellybeans or piece of hard candy that he had stashed up their earlier.  And I was enchanted.

He was the first person I remember playing Candyland with.  He would make me warm milk and actually get it to be yummy.

When I was at their house and looking for something to do, he would take me to the top floor and show me his seashells and drawer full of foreign coins he had picked up during his world travels.  I was enraptured with the delicate skeleton of a tiny seahorse, and he gave it to me as a gift, padded in a jewelry box.  I treasured that seahorse for years.

I last saw my Grandfather last February.  I went up with my Mom for a long weekend, and this time it was my turn to dazzle him -- both he and Grandma were pretty impressed by my new iPhone 4.  I remember staying up late with him one night and Googling trivia for the last couple answers that were stumping him in his NY Times crossword puzzle.  Grandpa managed to hold out for an entire life spent without a computer in his house, but by the end of the weekend he was calling to me to "look up (this or that) on that gadget, will you?"

It is very hard to be across the world at this moment.  Tomorrow morning there will be a viewing, and on Tuesday they will lay him to rest.  I want so badly to be able to be in New Jersey, to say my final goodbyes to the Grandfather who was always so good and kind to me.  But I also want to be there for those people he is leaving behind... my Grandma, my Mother, my aunts, uncles, and cousins.  There is a hole in each of our lives now.  The O'Connor clan has lost its patriarch, and an era is drawing to a close.  From now on, things will be different.

Safe journey, Grandpa.  You have all my love and the love of an incredible family.  And that is the greatest legacy that I can think of.

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