My Grandfather John

 My Grandfather John died 10 years ago today.  He died on a Friday, 3 days before what would of been his 72ND birthday.  In the years following his death, especially the holidays, it was very odd not having him around.  His empty seat at the dinner table was eerie.  But now, 10 years later, it seems more normal not having him with us.  Almost like it’s always been this way, and the man I knew for 18 years as “grampy” is just a surreal memory.

I know this is how it’s supposed to be.  Grandparents die.  I once had a college professor say, “If I had a nickel for every time someone told me a grandparent died, I could retire” I think I’ve actually used the excuse myself.  Not only to miss classes, but especially to miss work. I guess to most people grandparents are the ones who spoil you while you’re young and then become a burden to visit as you get older.  Trust me I know.  I kinda got that exact thing going on with my grandmother right now. But that’s another story.

I believe my childhood with grampy was a bit different than most. My grandfather voluntarily retired early so he could take care of my sister and I while our parents worked.  Instead of going to daycare or to a babysitter, everyday after school we’d go to grampys.  I didn’t know how special it was that he was doing it for us back then, I just figured all grandparents watched the kids.  Little did I know how unique our situation was.

My grandfather couldn’t cook so he’d take us to burger king for supper.  He wasn’t a big fan of cartoons so we’d spend the day watching Green Acres and All in the Family reruns.  Although I think he liked Scooby Doo.  He was old and couldn’t really “rough-house” with us, but I do recall him taking us to an indoor mini golf course on occasion and most often the local park.

I remember my grandfather always made jokes. Thinking back now, they were actually pretty lame, but I know he was just doing it to make his grand kids laugh. He loved to play games with us, whether it be hide and seek, bingo, or a number of card games like war, old maid, or go fish. 

Yes, I can honestly say in the years before my sister and I made friends with other kids, and got involved in school activities, grampy was our best friend.  I don’t think we took anything for granted. We simply assumed that this was the way all kids had it. I know my grandfather was happy just having us around.  Whether or not we truly appreciated it did not matter to him.

I remember when I left home at age 18 for college my grandfather had tears in his eyes.  His mind was going, and he no longer drove or left the house, but he was still able to realize that I was leaving and it meant he’d be seeing me less and less.

When I came home for my Christmas break, the man I once knew in childhood as my best friend was no longer there.  He was still alive, but he was so sick he couldn’t interact with the family.  He spent his days in bed and quite honestly I didn’t mind.  I felt bad for his condition and seeing him in that state was heartbreaking.

It was February 16th 1996.  It was the middle of the night.  I was sleeping soundly on the bottom bunk in my dorm room.  I remember feeling an odd sensation in my chest.  It wasn’t pain or discomfort.  I almost felt like there was a small balloon inside me, and it popped, and out came this odd little ball of energy that sorta numbed and warmed me.  The feeling lasted for about half a second.  Although it was brief it was noticeably unfamiliar.  As soon as this sensation was gone I heard a voice in my head that said “someones gone”  To this day I don’t know if I was dreaming or not.

I was awoken later that morning at 7:30 by the phone ringing.  I didn’t move.  The voicemail picked up.  Tai, my roommate at the time, got out of bed to go listen to the message.  I lay still in bed not letting him know whether I was awake or not. 2 minutes later I heard Tai walk up to my bed.  He stood there, I suppose not knowing what to say.  I turned over. “I should probably call home huh”  Tai looked a little bewildered by my comment, but he quietly said, “Yes”

It was no surprise what my mother told me, “Grampy died”  I felt numb, but I wasn’t in shock, and I didn’t cry.  I was sad grampy was gone, but I had a deeper sadness for my father.  My father had always been strong but I knew this was gonna be tough for him.  An hour later, after I showered, I called my sister.  “Are you okey?” I asked.  Her voice began to crack. “I’m fine…..I just feel bad for Dad.”

It started snowing by the time I was back home.  It snowed the whole weekend.  I didn’t tell anyone about my grandfather right away.  I guess you could say I was embarrassed to see people.  I didn’t like the idea of friends and loved ones hugging me and telling me how sorry they were.  It’s not the loss that bothered me it was the emotion and support from everyone that I couldn’t deal with. That’s what made me uneasy. I was afraid that’s what would make me cry.

My grandfather’s funeral was on a Monday morning.  The snow from the weekend had stopped.  It was a sunny day.  It was strange going to my grandfathers funeral on what would of been his 72nd birthday, but I guess that’s just how it works sometimes.

The wake and funeral were hard, especially seeing all my father’s co-workers, our neighbors on the street, and all the old men and women my grandfather grew up with.  Oddly, at the same time, it was a great sense of relief.  Adam and Tai came to the funeral and it felt good having them there.  My mother, who had been divorced from my dad for 15 years, was invited to sit with the family.

After the funeral everyone came back to our house.  People ate, drank coffee, and told stories about grampy.  The uncomfortable weight that had been in the house for the past 2 days was gone.  I left for college with Adam and Tai later in the day. I slept the whole way back…

There were some hard times down the road.  Holidays especially.  Or when my Grandmother would run into one of my grandfathers old friends and they’d start to reminisce. But eventually, like it’s supposed to, everything got easier.

  Now 10 years later, as I stated, it’s hard to remember “exactly” what it was like having grampy around.  Sometimes I dream about him.  The dreams are weird.  In the dreams he’s back from the dead.  I never dream of old times.  It’s always present day, and Grampy’s there, and as much as he tries to interact with me in the dream, I’m always telling him, “You’re not supposed to be here….You’re supposed to be dead”

Merrygoround So that’s it.  My first experience with death was tough.  But it’s tough for everyone.  I don’t think for one second me losing a grandparent is any different than anyone else losing someone.  But grandfather or not, old man or young, sick or healthy, weak minded or strong, I loved him.  I appreciate the sacrifices he made for me and my sister as we grew up. I don’t have to look back and worry about whether or not he knows that.  For some reason I just know he does…

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