William DeMuth

I have been thinking a lot about how I wanted to commemorate my late grandfather. My grandfather was 89 and in hospice, so his death was not unanticipated, but the echoes of sadness that followed were severe nonetheless. I thought today instead of my Monday Musings I would just share a small memory about my grandpa.

I know it is common for grandparents to spoil their grandkids, but mine really took it to another level. I remember one occasion when I was nine. On nights they’d babysit me, we’d occasionally go me to the Roseville Mall where we’d grab dinner at Chili’s. I would get the chicken fingers with corn on the cob. The golden batter tasted sweet, meshed onto the cones of processed meat, like it was almost a dessert for a meal. Also, the corn was cut into smaller chunks for my tiny hands.

This made me feel special. It was nice when people knew you were a child.

My grandparents would ask me all sort of questions about my friends at school, what I was studying, and how my parents were doing. After dinner we would go to Toys R Us where they would let me pick out a present. This didn’t happen often in my life, just a few times over the course of my childhood. I was incredibly lucky to have this experience.

Toys R Us seemed endless to me as a kid. I loved the video game area, where none of the games were out for you to look at or handle. They were far too precious a commodity for you to interact with physically. I loved that the store valued them as much as me. Instead you’d find the game’s title next to a crude graphic with a price, on a small slip of paper. You’d then take the scrap of a barcode up to a desk outside a locked room, which I assumed was one of the most magical places on earth, where a grumbling employee would retrieve it for you. It would take them a small eternity, but they’d finally return, often times with the wrong game.

This particular visit I focused on the now famous RPG Chrono Trigger, which has been voted one of the greatest video games of all time. At this moment in the game’s history, it was full price and just released for $80.00. My grandfather gawked at the price, but was eventually worn down by my grandmother. Having my own children now makes me respect this generosity even more so when recollecting it.

Chrono Trigger had a huge effect on me as a writer and person. I don’t know that my grandfather will ever know how much this gift meant to me. I have been combing my memories for more important fragments of experience with him, but I’m slightly embarrassed to say I can’t find anything more essential. There were many influences from media as a child, and some were strictly literary, but gaming had a profound effect on me, and if it was not for my grandpa I never would have had some of those formative moments. Watching powerful and emotional stories take place in the worlds of Final Fantasy and other Squaresoft creations made me realize that even in settings of pure fantasy and science fiction, you could create an emotional connection with your audience.

This has become a primary motivation for me as a modern storyteller.

As my grandpa fell into the void between life and death, like some hidden gate had been twisted open beneath his bed by a primal force, all I could think about was this memory. While I watched him die, pawing at his skin like his physical body was questioning why it was still there, I realized how lucky I was to have him in my life the times that I did.

Thank you grandpa. I will miss you. RIP.


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