I remember when my Grandfather Knieling passed away quite vividly. I was about four years old. I had just finished watching an episode of The Smurfs. I went outside and started acting out what I had just seen and heard in the episode. My Grandmother asked me, "David, have you seen your Grandpa?" I proceeded to answer back in character from what I saw on TV. My Grandmother, most likely dismissing it as "kid's talk" let me be and continued on. An hour later, after a lot of bad noise erupting from inside the house - my Grandmother walked outside, and told me, "Grandpa died."
Being only four years old, I didn't fully comprehend this - and continued to play. Later that night, as my Dad dropped me off at home - he explained to my Mom, tearfully, that his Dad (my Grandfather) had passed away. She comforted him (this was only a few short years after they had divorced) as best she could, and when he finally composed himself and went home, I remember asking my Mom, "Dad was crying?"
He was carrying me around and hugging me closely while he was talking to my Mom, and I remember feeling his tears on the back of my neck - I had never seen my Dad cry before. She kissed my cheek, picked me up and said, "Yes, Daddy was crying."
About a week later, I have been told that I was heard saying the words, "Hi, Grandpa!" from my Grandparent's bedroom. Whether or not I was actually responding to my deceased Grandfather remains highly skeptical, because being a child, it's quite possible I was only playfully "kidding" around. However, for my Mother and many others in the Knieling family - it was a nice, friendly sign from my Grandfather to me (and the rest of the family), letting everyone know he was all right and that everything was going to be okay. Quite frankly, that's the way I'd like to remember it too.
From what I remember growing up, life was always so much slower paced at the Knieling house in Norwalk - compared to that of the generally rush-rush nature of the Ramos household (also in the same city). From a certain perspective, even though I haven't visited that side of the family in years, it still feels very much the same to me after all these years. I often wonder what my life would have been like today if I had grew up living with my Grandma Knieling rather than my Grandma Ramos.
Would things be all that different from how they are now? My ideology and outlook on life would most certainly be different. However, is that a good thing or bad thing? Maybe my Dad would have stuck around to raise me? Maybe he would have left sooner? Maybe Jim (my uncle Jim committed suicide in 2005) would still be alive?
All dust in the wind now, I suppose. I'll always remember that big backyard, neatly cut front-yard. The freedom of security of being able to play in the street until dusk. Truly, that house, on that block - was a picture straight out of the late '50s to early '60s stretched out and over into my memories of what it was like growing up in the late '80s and early '90s. It was all a part of my childhood - and I'll never forget any of it.