My grandfather was a reserved man; quiet, usually in the background. I didn’t know him well; I don’t have many memories of him. Until Christmas Day, 1985.
I was 9. It wasn’t a banner year for me, as my father had suffered a series of heart attacks and would never leave the hospital, but we had traveled to see the grandparents anyway. I got a set of jacks in my stocking, and I was sitting on the floor playing with them after we’d opened all the presents. My six-foot tall Grandpa sat down, long legs sprawled out, and played with me. It’s seared in my memory, because now I know it was his way of saying goodbye. The next morning, my grandmother wandered the house, wondering where Grandpa was, asking everyone if they’d seen him or if he’d said anything about going anywhere. And then she found him, and I remember the screams and the terror. He’d taken the rifle in the garage, and he’d taken his own life. Depression, alcohol, fear – they changed my grandfather. But the gun – that’s what took his life.