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Amelia Bystry

This, that and the odder

About a month ago on Jan. 10, I had two huge life-changing events happen in my house — the birth of my baby brother, Angelo Steven, and the death of my Grandpa Steve. They happened four hours apart. They were both a shock because Angelo was a little early, and my grandpa really wasn’t sick.  

Even though my grandpa’s passing was a sad event, it was balanced by the beauty of a birth. It reminds me of “yin and yang.” My grandpa and my brother are the total opposite, but in many ways, they seem to complete each other.

My Grandpa Steve was a very large, scary looking, intimidating man. Even though he was in a wheelchair for the last three years of his life, he was still a bit scary, but he had the biggest heart of anyone I know. He loved to give lots and lots to anyone and everyone. Grandpa was generous to strangers as well as family and friends. He wasn’t like this for any other reason than it made him happy to give. As my grandpa was leaving this world, my tiny, fragile, baby brother entered it with a heart the size of a walnut. And Angelo is anything but intimidating and scary.

Another opposite that I see in them is their hands.

My grandpa’s hands were worn and weathered. He was a farmer and worked outside all the time. He has been retired for several years, but it never softened his hands. They were rough, crackly and enormous. He always wanted to play games like thumb wrestling, hand pounding or “uncle,” but I figured out quickly that I could never win because he was tough and had these huge fingers that couldn’t be squeezed. Now I sit holding my little brother and feel amazed at the tininess of his fingernails. His fingers and palms are soft and untouched without the lines and cracks that develop from a lifetime of work. They long to grip any finger or object coming near his palm. But everyone is so careful not so grip his hands too hard because they are so delicate.

When we weren’t thumb wrestling, Grandpa was usually telling us another joke or potboiler. My grandpa was always looking for a good story to tell others. He loved to exaggerate and make anything he said sound so much more grand then it actually was. His need to grow a story seemed to become greater as he got older. When I see my little brother sleeping, I look at him and see all the small but different faces he makes when he is dreaming. I wonder if all his little dreams and faces will eventually turn into much exaggerated tales. However, the size of Grandpa’s stories could never outgrow his massive stature.

For the past three years my grandpa has been in a wheelchair. It’s hard to remember when he was still walking around with ease and would stand out in a crowd. When I was looking at old pictures for the funeral, I was reminded of how tall he was. He would tower over anyone else in the photos. When Angelo was born, they determined his length with a tape measure using inches. It seems hard to imagine that Angelo’s 21 inches might grow into the 6 feet 3 inches that my grandpa once stood.

As Angelo grows, I am sure we will discover many more connections between he and Grandpa. Night and day, peanut butter and jelly, salt and pepper and yin and yang, Grandpa Steve and Angelo are forever linked by the events that occurred on Jan. 10, 2014. They are united.

Amelia Bystry, 15, resides in rural Princeton. You can contact Amelia at.amelia_bystry@yahoo.com.