Dear Gigi Karatchuk – There’s No Limit on Grief, Part II

Dear Gigi,

December 2, 1984.

Today is 35 years since you left us. You were only 67 years old.

Yesterday, I stared at the computer without a clue what to write. After all, this is a tribute post. Yet, all I could do was press the backspace key.

I miss you, Gigi.

I wish when you started smoking at 10 years old, I was there to slap that cigarette from your hand. I would’ve given you a copy of your obituary and said, “If you keep smoking, this is your future.”

My older sister, Jenn, and me with Baba and Gigi Karatchuk. Jenn and I are left to right (aka, I’m the one sucking my thumb).

I wish you’d been a Chicken Chef coffee regular, but the ones who walk in half an hour before closing time. You’d drink coffee and tell your friends, “I’m just waiting for my granddaughter to finish her shift.” Then you’d drive me home, and we’d talk about politics, world issues, and personal stuff. When we’d pass Geysir Road – leading to the cemetery where you and Baba are buried – you’d probably tell that joke. Which, by then, I probably heard a hundred times.

“There were two guys at a graveyard. The first guy placed a bouquet of flowers on a friend’s grave. He saw the other guy place a roast chicken on another grave. The first guy said, ‘When do you think your friend will eat that chicken?’ and the other guy said, ‘When your friend comes up to smell the flowers.’ ” 

And I’d laugh, because you wanted me to know: “The dead doesn’t live at graveyards.” You told this joke when I was young, and I believe you were trying to teach my older sister and I not to fear death. Or dying. At times I’ve forgotten those lessons – and I’ve been afraid of dying. But I’ve never been afraid of graveyards. Unless there’s a reported bear sighting. Otherwise, I find them peaceful.

I wish you shared more stories. A couple years ago, I realized one was based on a true account. Another, loosely based on Samson and Delilah. And these stories were always set near Riverton or Hnausa. I wish you taught the secret behind that card trick. The one where I’d choose a card, you’d reshuffle the deck, smell the cards and say, “Not that one, but I’m getting closer.” Then you’d smell the cards and knock on the stack, and voila – there was my card.

Gigi always wore a hat and had a cigarette dangling from his lip. Even if it wasn’t being smoked. I’m the one on the cow.

I could go on with my wish list, but it’s long and selfish. Fact is, no one wants to lose a grandparent. An early ’90s MTS commercial proclaimed, “Grandparents are only with you part time.” To children, time is irrelevant. But as adults, it’s a commodity we sometimes squander.

I wish I’d known December 1st was your 24 hours with us. I wish I’d known you’d be gone by the end of December 2nd. But it’s selfish to want more time when the majority of our relatives and friends didn’t get a last half an hour – or a chance to say goodbye.

We miss people for different reasons. Maybe their love was unconditional. Or we miss their hugs and infectious laugh. Or their advice and deep conversations. But we can’t turn back the clock. We can’t stuff more sand into the hourglass. We have no choice but to flip it over and start a new chapter. And we have to travel a journey without you.

Even though we don’t want to.

I’ll forever love and miss you, Gigi.