Tonight my textual ramblings will have nothing to do with my parking garage employment, nor with Portland, Maine and its waterfront. Tonight my words are reserved for Peter Falk.
Peter Falk died last night. I’ve never been one to care much about the activities or lives of celebrities, let alone be emotionally affected by their passings. Celebrities are strangers, and lots of strangers die every day. But Falk and his most famed character, Lieutenant Columbo, hold a complicated place in my heart.
Large chunks of my childhood were spent curled up under a ratty comforter on my grandparent’s brown and orange plaid couch, falling asleep to the sounds of Falk’s raspy voice pestering know-it-all criminals with his famous line, “Just one more thing…”. My grandfather seemed to unknowingly emulate the character of Columbo – he had the wrinkled tan raincoat, the raspy voice, and was constantly surrounded by a cloud of cigar smoke. I began to marry the two men in my mind: Peter Falk merged with my grandfather, and the tendency to combine memories of the two grew after my grandfather passed.
In the years since losing my grandfather (13 of them in total), I resurrected his memory by tuning into my favorite bumbling detective and perhaps placing too much emotional stock in the non-existant sleuth. I have no video or audio recordings of my grandfather to enjoy, so I would project his memory onto Columbo and enjoy the man my grandfather so greatly resembled.
Thus, Peter Falk became somewhat of a distant replacement for my grandfather, and upon hearing of his death, I was devastated. Peter Falk was my pretend grandfather. He served as the far-away stand-in that was, in my mind, the closest living being to my grandfather. In an undoubtedly bizarre way, the death of Peter Falk resurrects the anguish felt when my grandfather died.
While I acknowledge that Falk felt typecast because of his longterm role as Lieutenant Columbo, I would have liked to share with him the impact the show has had on my life, and the memories it has helped me hold onto in the past decade. It may have seemed like a meaningless role to Peter Falk, but the existence of Columbo has always meant the world to me.
Goodbye, Peter Falk. Goodbye, Columbo. Goodbye, Grandpa.