Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Reflection #38/40

My maternal grandfather, Leighton Watkins, was born on May 27, 1910. We shared a name and a birthday. I called him NaNa. He lived next door to us, with my grandmother DeDe, in a big brick house. Sometimes I sat in the living room and watched baseball with him.

One morning when I was six I woke up and saw DeDe sitting next to my bed. I don’t know how long she had been sitting there, waiting for me to wake up, but as soon as I did she told me the news—NaNa ha
d died in the night.

I was devastated. I cried and cried. I stayed home from school, but I don’t know what I did for the rest of the day.

I was only six, and I only knew NaNa as my grandfather. There was so much I didn’t know about him. When I went to the funeral I was shocked and amazed when the man at the front talked about NaNa’s life and all he had done. He was a veteran of World War 2 and a beloved teacher and principal. So many people said that he had changed their lives for the better. It made me feel proud, to know that he had done so much good, but also disappointed, that I had only discovered all these great things after my grandfather was gone.

There was a night, maybe after that first day, or maybe after the funeral, or maybe even later, when I was lying in bed and couldn’t sleep. The loss hurt too much and I couldn’t stop thinking about it.

I got up out of bed and started playing with my Superman Colorforms set. I had gotten it for Christmas a couple of months earlier. Colorforms are little vinyl pictures that you can stick onto a laminated plastic backdrop. There were little vinyl Superman images and little Lex Luthors, and you could maneuver them around to create scenes of them fighting.

The adventures of Superman unfolded on the plastic backdrop and in my head. By playing with the Colorforms, I was able to distract myself from the pain. Soon afterwards I went back to bed.

That might have been the first time I used super-heroes as a coping mechanism. It would not be the last.

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