After having knee replacement surgery, making a recovery to the point where he received a clean bill of health and went to rehab - we received notice that he had a minor blood clot in his lung, which eventually required him to go back to the hospital, which then led him to the MICU, and then to the ICU.
Pat was flown home in time to say goodbye (and it really wasn't until my parents booked him a last minute, first class flight without blinking an eye that I realized the gravity of the situation), and we all gathered around the man who has been the glue to hold us together for years, holding his hand asking us to squeeze our hands, and telling him one last time how much we love him.
Tomorrow is the wake, and Thursday is the funeral, where I am delivering a speech (hopefully, because at this point I do not know if I can hold it together). When I was woken by my mom as she and my dad headed to the hospital after Poppy passed away, I was up just crying and reminiscing. Writing has become such an outlet for me that I turned up my music as loud as possible, and just wrote my feelings.
This post is in honor of my Poppy - I hope I make him proud on Thursday, and that my humble writing skills can express even a portion of what I feel for my grandfather.
Moi et Poppy, circa 1990.
While I was growing up, many of my friends had both sets of grandparents - and there were times that I felt really sorry for myself. I never knew my mom's parents, and my grandmother died when I was only three, so my memories of her are really borrowed memories from others. Those borrowed memories are wonderful, and I have no doubts to the kind of person she was, but those memories are not my own.
I had twinges of jealousy in elementary school, as I heard stories from the other kids about how they visited their grandparents in Florida, or when their grandmothers would pick them up from school. In my elementary school mind, quantity was more tangible than quality.
How foolish I was to be jealous. Because maybe those other people did have two sets of grandparents, maybe they had stepgrandparents - but I am the granddaughter of Thomas B., which means that I have known unconditional love that some people have gone through their entire lives without finding.
I know the love of a grandfather, who came to every single soccer game I ever played – some days to sit wrapped in blankets, shivering on the cold bleachers.
I know the love of someone who kept a recording I made at four years old on his answering machine and promised to never erase it, even when it got distorted and almost unrecognizable as the years have gone on.
I know the love of one man who was there for every function, big or small, who told you that you were beautiful, or special, or talented, at times when you needed it the most. I knew on the days that mattered to me – the county soccer matches, the birthday celebrations, graduations, plays, - anything of significance, I knew that my grandfather would be there for me. I knew that when I walked down the stairs, even if I was just slightly dressed up, that there was someone there telling me how absolutely beautiful I looked, someone who never laughed at my dreams or my ambitions and who taught me to believe in myself.
My 23rd birthday at a Japanese steakhouse, where he tried to use chopsticks and had to get child chopsticks, which he took home to practice with.
For those of you who don't know him like we all did - this was a man who as a child, was arrested for throwing cherries at cars, and when he was put in a police car, popped the door open on the other side and ran away. This was a man who sang songs that made absolutely no sense, but he continued to sing them because he knew they made us laugh. A man who thought family togetherness was so important, that he did whatever he could to get us all to spend time together - including squeezing way too many people into a four-bedroom condo down the shore every year, and insisting that we all attempt to sit at one table for dinner, driving servers everywhere absolutely insane.
There is a French expression, l’espirit de l’escalier, which is when you leave a conversation and think of all the things that you wish you had said. I’ve been replaying over and over all the things I should have said to my grandfather – how I should have told him that he has made me a better person; a more loving person; that he has inspired me to be more – not to meet the expectations of others, but because I can be more; or just how very much I appreciated him – but honestly, I think he knew. I think he knew how much love we all had for him without a shadow of a doubt, because he instilled that type of love in each one of us.
I feel like my generation is more jaded – we don’t wear our hearts on our sleeve as much, and hold back. We conform to what we think our parents want us to do and many of us go through life never feelings truly accepted or happy.
How blessed am I, and are my cousins and brother, because have had a constant figure in our life who has loved us just because.
One day, when I have children or nieces and nephews, I will be able to tell them stories ofS strength, or stubbornness, and of unconditional love for family and the importance of togetherness in a family, because that is the legacy that my grandfather is passing down to me.
Physically, my grandfather may be gone, and my heart breaks for the loss that I feel at the fact that there won’t be more time to tell him over and over again how much I love him, or laugh at the funny things he says – even when sometimes he didn’t realize he was being funny.
In the book Tuesdays with Morrie, Morrie explains to his student that while death ends a life, it does not end a relationship – the love that we have for each other will always remain, beyond the grave and that after we die, we live on in the hearts of everyone who we have nurtured or touched. I am proud to say that in this way, my grandfather will remain alive in me, and in the lives of all who he has touched.
My hope now is that we can all take his legacy of unconditional love and apply it to our daily lives, carry him with us in our hearts every day.
I write this with tears in my eyes, because it hasn't even been a full day, and I miss him so much. I miss his laugh, I miss the way he gave advice, I miss the way he loved us all so much.
For all the Tweets, Facebook messages, etc. - thank you all. I love you all so much and wish I could give big hugs to each and every one of you.
If you could keep my family in your thoughts/prayers/whatever you're so inclined to do, it would mean so much - especially my brother, because he has a really, really hard time externalizing his feelings, so he's acting like nothing is bothering him at all, when I think he's feeling really guilty for being away when Poppy was getting so sick. I don't want my brother living with guilt over something he couldn't control.
Currently listening to: Florence + the Machine - Cosmic Love.