The Day When I Grew Up. A Tribute To My Grandfather

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Memoir  |  House: Booksie Classic

Being young and single, you sometimes trick yourself into thinking that nothing has changed since you turned 18, when suddenly comes that day when you have to grow up.

In loving memory of Lt.-Col. Ivan R. Kostrov

It turned out that the day I realized I'd grown up had a specific date. It was the 16th of July 2015. I was wasting my afternoon browsing unimportant historical facts on the web when my brother called to tell me the news. My grandfather's heart, having been struggling for almost a week, had given up. My grandfather was no longer with us. My strong, all-powerful, optimistic grandfather passed away.


I've never fed myself false hopes that there are eternal people. There is one price we all have to pay for receiving the greatest gift of life, and it is called mortality. I thought I had known I was an adult, making a living, paying for my expenses, being independent. I strongly believed that maturing is just a thing that happens on its own, and it certainly does not have any turning points. I had never been so wrong.

I realized I had grown up when I ended the call. My tears had held a 15-second pause before waterfalling from my eyes. My mind instinctively grabbed the phone, and I listed names of several people I wanted to call for comfort and for sympathy. Five names of my best of friends sprang to my mind, and I called none. The day I grew up, I learnt that you do not have to share your grief. Sometimes you will have to take it on your own.
The phone was still in my hand, and I dialled the office. I also realized that being an adult you cannot afford crying your eyes out all day. The first thing I did was to make sure I arranged for someone to back me up at work, and that I left my monthly rent as it was due date the following day. And after that I wiped my tears, put some powder on my face and went to teach a class.

A new-born adult, I realized that losing a loved one is never about your grief, and that there are people who suffer more than you can possibly imagine. It is your duty to be there for them. It is your duty to let them cry on your shoulder, or to hold their hands. It is you who needs to listen to their mourning, patiently, compassionately, kindly. You find out that the grief does not automatically wash out old feuds but may in fact magnify them, and you are the one who is supposed to put out potential fire. It is when you grow up that you finally embrace your empathetic nature fully, because it is not about you. That day nothing is about you. That day you learn to cry alone, behind the closed door of your room, or softly sobbing in a pillow after the lights go off, but to be strong outside for those who suffer more than you do.

The day I grew up I understood that I couldn't escape the stifling effect of guilt. Millions of "should have" caught up with me at once. I should have called more often. I should have spent more time. Should have asked more questions. Should have said that I cared. Should have arrived home earlier. The more I tried to tuck them back, the stronger they pushed outside. I allowed myself to drown in my own regrets to learn a valuable lesson: too late exists indeed.

My dear caring, selfless, hard-working grandfather. Even in death you keep teaching me about life, things I could have never understood without you. Having lived through struggle and died in one, you remain a light and warm person in our hearts, strongly loved and deeply respected.
Having been receiving from you since my very first day in this world, I can give you my gratitude in return.  After a hard life of losses  and fighting, let your soul rest in peace.


Submitted: July 22, 2015

© Copyright 2021 Katia Stepanova. All rights reserved.

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