here, there, everywhere


In Family, Mystery Trip, Russia on September 30, 2012 at 12:05 am

I did not have much of a relationship with my mother’s father.  I remember Grandpa Suderman as a quiet, austere man.  I’m not even sure he spoke English because he never said anything to me or my brothers and sister.  I don’t remember him acknowledging my mom.  When we visited he sat at the head of the dinner table, quietly eating, maybe thinking about what we were all talking about, maybe not.

When I was six, Mom got a call that Grandpa was unwell, so she packed up and took me with her to be with her parents.  Because he was in a poor state when we arrived I was pretty much left to my own devices while everyone attended to his needs.  The first night there I walked into his room to say goodnight to my mom who was on duty.  Other people were in the room, probably my grandmother and other relatives.  I asked if I could give him a hug goodnight but they all said no, he was too weak.  Then he said, “Let her come,” in English (aha!) so I went over to his bedside.  I think I climbed into the bed and for the first time received a hug from him.  My task was complete, I jumped back to the floor, went to my room next door, got into bed and fell asleep.

Grandpa died that night.  When I awoke I could hear a strange noise coming from the bedroom, Grandma and my mom were standing at the foot of the bed, staring at his corpse and crying.  I was just a kid so I went off to play.


Mom told me later that one of Grandpa’s biggest memories was visiting Lenin’s Mausoleum in Moscow.  For some reason it made a big impression on him, and because of that I wanted to see it myself when I finally arrived here, 34 years after Grandpa’s death.  Maybe it would provide a connection between us – I would have seen something that was important to him.  We had to wait until Saturday to go because it was closed on Friday.  We walked by it a couple of times while we visited Red Square and I felt myself getting closer to building a bridge to my past.  Finally the day came and we headed off to get in line.  Who knows why but the mausoleum was closed to viewers.  Apparently this happens a lot, they shut it down for no apparent reason.  I was only a little disappointed, I wasn’t overly keen on seeing a grossly preserved, deteriorating body of a man who altered the course of Russian history.  What was I trying to accomplish with this observation?  Regardless, I was close enough that in the end it really didn’t matter.

I wonder though, if seeing it would have given me and Grandpa something to talk about when we meet again?  Or would I still be persona non grata?  Does it even matter?  We never had a relationship and I don’t miss him.  But still, he is my past and something in him must surely be in me.  I would hope if someone told him I had been to Russia to try and connect to him, he would say once again, “Let her come.”

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