Old People Die So That Young People May Live

Premature burial

Grandfather died. Sunday he did not answer the phone, so Monday we paid him a visit. The apartment was locked (key left in the lock, a precaution against imaginary thieves) so we had to call the firemen and the police. They had to force the door open. His apartment smelled of old furniture and inaction, of rigid habits and dead grandmother’s forgotten smells. The TV was on.

The kitchen and bathroom were empty and clean, which came as a relief, for we feared he may have somehow stumbled and fallen. Imagine blood, a sprawled corpse, a ghastly wound… Far from it.

We found him stretched on his bed, the remote control on his chest. His mouth was open, his lips smeared with spit. His bent arms with clenched fists rested on his chest, leaving no doubts about the cause of the death, which the doctor later confirmed – heart attack, probably during a nap.

Seventy-four years old.


Retired police officer.

One eye brown, the other milky green.

(Many years ago, during a night shift, a vagabond stabbed him in the eye through a hedge, with a screwdriver.)

Heavy smoker — 1 pack of cheap cigarettes a day.

Physically inactive — at least eight hours a day of lying on his bed, watching TV.

Liked to eat meat and fat, sometimes even in the evening.

Widower. Grandmother died last year from lung cancer. (She never smoked.)

Grandfather was the sort of person who grumbled every day about the corruption of the politicians and yet once a month he sought out gypsy traders from whom he procured smuggled cigarettes because they were cheaper than the imported cigarettes in the shops.

He was also the sort of man who, when I was little, he used to give me a small sum of money for toys on the day when he received his pension.

I could tell you about how he did not call all the people he should have called for grandmother’s funeral last year to minimize expenses, or how, while I lived with him and grandmother, he used to buy me ice tea and pizza and chocolate every day, or how he did not attend my parents’ wedding, or how old age had mellowed him, or how he had his share of blame in my father’s death from liver cancer, after a lifetime of alcoholism, or how he bought me things to pacify his conscience, or how we failed to have a deep connection based on love or at least some sort of connection based on understanding, or how he was not my real grandfather, being only my father’s stepfather, but I am hungry and must go to eat.

I did not cry when we found him, nor during the uninspired religious rites, which here in Romania are anything but heartfelt, nor when they lowered in the crypt the solemn black casket I had chosen for him. But then I did not cry when my father or grandmother died, either. Could it be that I have a brain tumor causing ataraxia? It’s more likely that there was not enough love in my family, not enough understanding.

I did love my grandfather, a little, and I did feel pity for him, for he was one of those men I fear I myself will be, a man who never truly loved anyone and whom nobody truly loved.

Oh, one more thing.

Before I hurried to grandfather’s apartment Monday, before we found him stretched on his bed with the remote on his chest, I had to fill my bag with the necessary things for the journey, which meant I had to remove a certain noose from my bag, which I had made a while ago, and which I kept there, just in case I did have cancer and lacked the funds for treatment (uninsured). Now it seems I am to inherit grandfather’s apartment, whose sale should cover the cost for a lymphoma treatment. Thus, the destiny of the short and frail boy with a hat takes an unexpected turn.

Yes, old people die so that young people may live…

25 thoughts on “Old People Die So That Young People May Live

  1. Once again I am very sorry for your loss. I was particularly close to my grandfather and still the death of relative is nothing short of a tragedy. Also, I hope you’re granted with the satisfaction of being cancer free in return of your poor grandfather’s passing.

  2. My grandmother always said the old must die and the young do die. I was lucky to be raised by both her and my mother, while my grandfather,a city fireman, provided the wherewithal. He was almost the same age as your “not real” grandfather when he died from complications due to diabetes. Heavy smoker (Salem menthol) and he had been the appointed chef at all the firemen barbecues, Santa at the annual fireman’s Christmas ball and the main cook during 24-hour shifts at the fire house. But he gave up the meat and fat and switched to fruit and salads to hold of diabetes or would have died sooner.

    He was an American Georgian–I make the distinction since you mention a country where a mention of Georgia might first bring the Russian one to mind. He died before my grandmother did,with family in attendance. I was a thousand miles away in a remote area, duck hunting. So I did not attend his funeral. But the funeral home that tended our family for a hundred years did the honors with special care, since its owner had been my grandmother’s boyfriend before she married in 1920.

    Aside from details, I sense underlying kinship between my grumpy grandfather and yours. I felt moved to comment out of respect for you clean, simple writing in my native language. Your writing reminds me of Joseph Conrad. Honest unadorned remembrance is the best eulogy.

  3. It’s strange the way things sometimes seem to happen at a time or in a way that serves some other purpose in the universe, or in our lives. It seems to mean something, though it’s difficult to say exactly what. Vincent, also, at the risk of sounding trite, you’re so young, and there is so much possibility still before you. I remember very acutely being exactly the age you are, the painful intensity of being lonely & shy, seeing no way past the barriers that isolated me. But there was a way, eventually. It took another 20 years, but I found the love of my life. Funny thing is, it happened only when I was truly ready, something I only recognized after the fact. Anyway, try to stay hopeful. And never assume you are not loved. I know it’s not the same, but we who read your writings here do love you in our way, paltry as it may seem.

    Again, I send condolences for your grandfather’s death, good wishes & prayers for your health & happiness. And ((hugs)).

  4. My condolences, Vincent. Everyone grieves in their own way and for some, tears are not the way. There is no right or wrong way to feel when you lose someone.
    You are so very young and very passionate. Stop worrying about finding The One and look for joy in the life that you currently have.

    Sending you a big cyber hug now…(((Vincent)))

  5. Death is not pretty. Mostly it is sweep under the rug as we have no way to comprehend it. In today’s society the hospital is the place to hide when dying. Meanwhile you may survive and that is the rub. Life is a mixture of ambiguities which when strung together has no cohesion.

  6. Wow. This is is existentialist and as frank as it gets. His death worked out in your favor, but I’ll never understand why you think you’re dying. I had cancer last year and I’m not dying. It seems so morbid to plan for a surgery you may never need.
    Death of a loved one often hits me much later. I think that’s pretty normal.

    1. I’m no longer sure I am dying. The practicalities worry me much, though. I’ve never had any medical issues, never been to hospital. Besides, Romania isn’t the USA or was it Canada, Susie? Public health care can be terrible, and private services are so expensive!

  7. Dear Vincent. *Hugs*. I’m sorry that your grandfather died, and that there was not enough love in your family. I am happy that maybe now you might seek treatment, or think of outliving the old. Most of all, I’m happy to hear about the real world and the real boy who lives in it.

  8. 😦 I’m sorry for your loss. It is amazing how things pan out and possibly a way to see that perhaps your destiny is not as fated as you imagine it so. We all grieve differently, tears or none does not make you less human.

  9. It doesn’t have to be ostentatious, it could be quiet and contained: Yes you are truly loved, which means you only have love to give to the world in return.

  10. In so many ways you describe my family and my feelings about them too. We are not passionate in our relationships – passion in life escapes me which is why, I guess, I write about it so much. But that doesn’t preclude a thousand other ways to be happy, and I’m sure you’ll discover the track that is right for you. There is a lot of love to be found in life if you simply reach out for it.

  11. I am so glad to have met you, young man. I am an old lady, though many say I don’t look my age, and not quite as old as your grandfather. May he RIP.
    I am here to encourage you as all those whom already have. Life and death is a funny thing. I don’t mean in a humorous way, but in the fact that you have the rest of your life to deal with the fact that you found your grandfather dead on his bed.
    You will probably find it surreal at the moment, but I must say, my paternal grandparents were from Czechoslovakia, and they appeared to be unkind to me. However, after 47 years, I still dream of them. I loved them and they did me, but we didn’t express our feelings.
    Anyhow, my deepest sympathy to you. It is sad to lose family.

  12. You are not like your grandfather. Your heart is too big, your soul too deep, your love to strong. Also, you are loved —

    Oh, and I’m with Alarna. I like hearing about the real life of the real boy, who is really not so much a boy at all.

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