Jason Keil

Jason Keil is a writer whose work has been published in the Phoenix New Times, AZCentral.com, Phoenix Magazine, and OnMilwaukee.com. He also co-hosts the podcast What The Fork.

Fatherhood: Week 20-Someone's Missing

My grandfather Edward died ten days after I was born.

I was the only grandchild he met. He is the family member I resemble the most. When my grandmother passed away, most of my extended family recognized me at the funeral because my resemblance to my Grandpa Edward is so uncanny. There is a picture of him at my parents' wedding on my fridge. It captures my past, but in that picture I see myself fifteen years into the future.

No filter needed. This picture is 39 years old.

No filter needed. This picture is 39 years old.

I don't know much else about Edward Hickey. His ancestry was a little bit of everything, including some American Indian blood. My grandmother said he was a handsome, funny man who loved a good time. My mother loved him despite his tendencies toward corporal punishment. He was beloved by many, worked hard, frequented events at the local Knights of Columbus, and could sport a crew cut better than most men of his generation. 

In short, he is a man I would have liked to have known better. 

Since I share his face and his name, it seems to follow that my grandfather should be the member of my family I feel the closest to, yet he is the furthest away physically and emotionally. I feel an emptiness when I think about him. As much as I love my immediate family, I don't share much with them personally. I get my love of pop culture from my dad, but we don't like the same things (anymore). I have my mother to thank for my neuroses.

My mother frequently argued with her family. The punishment for their disagreements was shutting each other out, so I rarely spent time with my extended family. Growing up, my curiosity about my Grandpa Edward increased, but those who can tell me about him are leaving this mortal coil. My Uncle Mark passed away a year before my mother. My Uncle Gary, who I have grown closer to since my mother died, is not much of a talker. 

I have so many silly but important questions about my Grandpa. Did he have a creative side? What kind of music and movies did he like? Was he smart? Did he have a lot of friends? I'm desperate to know if we share more than blood and a striking resemblance. 

My son and I share the fact we did not know one of our grandparents.

Beckett's grandmother Denise died twelve years before he was born.

My relationship with my mother, much like her relationship with her parents, was complicated. There were good memories I will share with him when he wants to know. 

So let's get started, son:

Did she have a creative side? Yes. She often did calligraphy.
What kind of music and movies did she like? She liked Paul McCartney. One of my fondest memories of spending time with her was watching The Abyss. We both loved that movie.
Was she smart? Terribly. Your grandmother was a great nurse and helped me with many school projects, especially at the last minute.
Did she have a lot of friends? When your grandmother died, the service was well-attended by those who loved her so much.