My grandpa died early Sunday evening. The event hit me hard – harder than I think any death ever has, even though, at the point that he died, it was somewhat expected. I feel very fortunate that I got to spend as much time with him as I did, both in my 22 years and this past week while he was in the hospital (see my previous post). However, I had to leave for school Sunday morning – a drive that tore me up inside: I was fighting the urge to turn around much of the time. And I still feel like maybe I should have. I know I shouldn’t dwell on it, but I kind of regret the decision to come back here now. Being alone – without my family, without Davis, without friends – was almost unbearable. But this post isn’t about me – it’s about Papa, on what would have been his 84th birthday.
I have always been close to my mom’s parents – we even lived with them for about a year and a half while we were remodeling our house. I have so many fond memories of him – from him picking us up from school when we were little to sneezing after almost every meal. For the first 10 or so years of my life, we’d go to my grandparents’ house for dinner every Sunday night. My aunts and uncles would be there too. It was like they all raised me: a group effort, to help the oldest grandchild grow up.
In addition to being an awesome grandpa, he had a lot of accomplishments under his belt. He served in the Navy and graduated from Harvard Business School. He was the president of a waste disposal company, then of a woodworking firm. He was really smart and, while a quiet guy, he had a dry sense of humor and got those “zingers” in when we least expected it. He battled cancer twice – first skin cancer, then lung cancer 15+ years later, which ended up taking his life. His faith and his family were most important to him. I really aspire to be like him.
He was the rock of our family. He loved spaghetti and smoked turkey and hated it when his food was cold. He’d let us “Heimlich” him and would turn up the TV when we were being too loud. We’d go on walks together (well, my sister went with him more than I did, but I still did sometimes!). It was his voice on the answering machine, and he’d politely tell sales callers “I’m hanging up now” before putting down the phone. He read more than anyone I know and was never spotted without a newspaper.
I turned on some jazz tonight – it was his favorite music, and we’d often hear it echoing through the house. It was like I was transported back to their family room. I wanted to dance around to it like I used to when I was little. I could almost see him, sitting in the corner rocking chair, reading his paper, and hear the bustle of my family talking in the kitchen while preparing dinner.
I felt like baking, so I’m making scones and plan on sticking a candle in one and singing him happy birthday even though he’s not here. I’ve felt pretty good all day (a great improvement from yesterday) but I still feel empty and sad when I think that he’s no longer with us. It’s hard to imagine the dinner table at my grandparents’ house without him. I won’t ever get to see him working in his yard again with his white hat on, or tending the fire at Christmas. He won’t be able to come to my wedding.
I’m trying to keep my chin up, and I’m going home again later this week. I miss him already. Papa wouldn’t want me to be sad; he’d want me to work hard in life and have faith in something greater. He’d want me to know that he’s okay, and that I’ll get to see him again one day.
Happy birthday, Papa. I love you!