I've never thought too much about it, but this question has always made me feel weird.
In many ways, it feels like an unnecessary question, or an insensitive one. I know they don't mean it this way, but it's as if the person saying it is really asking, "How sorry should I be for this situation?"
Also, even if they weren't close, there could still be a lot of emotions to deal with in a situation like that. It's still a grandparent, the person that created the mother and father of the person. There can be a connection there emotionally even if there wasn't a tangible, physical one, right?
I guess another reason I feel like it's weird is because I grew up around my grandparents; I saw them all of the time, but did I feel close to them? Once I went to college, I saw them a couple of times a year and we never talked on the phone. I still felt very connected to them, but realized we knew very little about one another.
I'd long to be able to come home and sit next to them and hear them talk about when they were younger, but somehow, in the group dynamic of my family, those conversations rarely happened, and for whatever reason, I never made myself available to make it happen either- a great example of how my misgivings have kept my desires from becoming reality.
This past weekend, I sat on the edge of a hospital bed in Memphis and talked to my grandfather for an hour, just the two of us. I touched his hands and talked about boys and how I'm trying so hard to make my life work, to make art and buy food.
He told me about graduating from UT (he was the president of his class) and starting out as a milkman in Chicago. He later went on to manage and bring success to several dairies in the Southeast. He was an incredibly savvy businessman.
I'm an artist, and that is a longshot from managing a large national dairy, but I feel connected to him in this way, that we both forged/are forging an unknown and risky path, we both wanted/want something big, and we both started small.
I hope I have some amount of his business skill in my blood, buried deep down, waiting to be uncovered.
"Hold your chin up and count to ten," he told me before I kissed him goodbye and left the room.
I should be able to count to 1,000 now.