For Gramps Sake
It’s been a great blogging week for me. I showed you my tattoos. I claimed my awesomeness (thanks again Jenny!) I’m looking forward to next week’s Diabetes Blog Week run by Karen at Bitter Sweet (check the line up here!) So today I was trying to figure out to write and I can’t believe I overlooked the obvious. This is something I knew was coming all week and my first thought when I woke up this morning. So, this one’s for you Pops.
Four years. Four years have passed since I last saw my grandfather alive. I am incredibly fortunate to have had the relationship with him that I did. He was my babysitter, my chauffer and my rock. Sis and I were lucky enough to live six houses down the street from my grandparents. We didn’t have babysitters, we had Nana and Papa. Nana who puttered around in the kitchen making delicious sweets (I still love applesauce just the way she would make it for me – with cinnamon, and still warm) and giving us Fudge Ripple ice cream in stale ice cream cones. Those were the days. I remember Grampa would check on me when I would stay home sick. When I was little I would stay at their house and when I got bigger him or Gram would come up and make sure I was ok. When I was old enough to stay home alone, I would always call him when I heard a strange noise or if I was scared and he was there. When I started a group called (nerd alert!) WASTE (We Are Saving The Earth) in 6th grade, he would pick all of us up after our meetings were over and drive every one of us home. He was patient, kind and funny. Yes, he had his faults, who doesn’t? But I always loved him. Even to this day.
I will never forget the night he died. He’d broken his ankle a few weeks prior so he didn’t come to visit at my parent’s much (they live in a raised ranch so that means stairs. Broken ankle + stairs = not gonna happen) Well my ex and I had a standing date for cards at my parent’s every Saturday night. This night in particular he was ready to get out so him and Gram came to join in the fun. Dad was making Rusty Nails (Scotch & Drambuie – ick! Tastes like paint thinner!) for himself and the ex and Grandpa said, “Hey, make me one of those will ya?” So dad did. When he got his glass, he raised it in a toast to my ex and said, “Here’s to your health young man.” A few hours later, Grandpa was gone.
The way I found out was awful. I only had a cell phone and reception at my place was spotty at best. The ex and I had fallen asleep when we got home from cards (him in the recliner and me on the couch). The ex was a volunteer firefighter and EMT so he had a pager that would go off whenever there was an emergency in town. I was awoken by the tones of his pager and heard the following, “Please respond to a Code 99 at …(my grandparent’s address).” For those of you who don’t know EMT speak, code 99 (at least in this area) refers to Cardiac Arrest. I shot up and said, “Play that again! That’s my grandparent’s address!” We played it back and sure enough, it was. We hopped in the car and my cell phone rang immediately. It was Sis. She was crying. She said it was Grandpa. I sobbed. Actually, sobbed isn’t even the word. I. Was. Hysterical. The only thing I remember about that whole 15 minute car ride was my ex telling me he wanted to get in the ambulance with Gramps. He wanted to help save him. I knew that was a bad idea. First of all, Gramps had a DNR (Do Not Resuscitate.) so there was nothing to be done. Secondly, if he got on that ambulance and Gramps died, there would be blame. Subconscious or not, my husband’s job was to protect me (and I to do the same) and if he couldn’t save me from this pain, I knew, JUST KNEW it would be bad (it ended badly anyway but that’s a WHOLE other story!).
The ambulance was leaving the development when we pulled in. We got to the driveway and I hopped out of the car, hysterical. You see, we had lost the ex’s grandmother on Valentine’s Day and my uncle exactly a month later due to a massive heart attack. I WASN’T GOING THROUGH THE PAIN AGAIN. Here we were, only 7 weeks after two devastating losses. I just wanted to give up. I was so hysterical that I don’t remember much until my mother slapped me. Right. Across. The. Face. Well hello!
Mom & Dad got in the car with the ex and I and we drove to the hospital. We already knew he was gone. Heart attack. The family gathered together and we cried and mourned and remembered. We were allowed to go in and see him and we all laid a hand on him and recited the Lord’s prayer. Until that night, I had a profound, unexplained fear of dead things. Bugs, birds, roadkill, and most of all, dead people. This stems from way back and maybe warrants another post. But that night, I reached out and held my grandfather’s hand and I cried silent, sad tears. I hadn’t known sadness until that night.
We congregated back at my parent’s house for coffee, donuts and more stories in the wee hours of the morning. We decided to do a small, private service for him. His wish had been to be cremated and we complied. The day of the funeral was a gorgeous day. Our family gathered together at the cemetery and my father’s brother in law had prepared a lovely service. As it started, the sun’s rays grew warmer and two geese flew overhead (Sis said it was Gramps and his beloved brother Wesley, reunited again. She still thinks of them whenever she hears or sees geese. I think that’s nice) My mom and I both spoke. We played some of his favorite Canadian music; Anne Murray, The Rankin Family and more. We sang as a family along with the CD we brought. We laid the urn in the ground and each grandchild and child, one by one (six kids and fourteen grandkids!) placed a rose into the hole, on top of the urn. It was amazingly touching. For what was such a sad occasion, it was poignant yet beautiful and peaceful.
I miss Gramps every day. I see him in each member of my family and I cherish the moments when I see him in myself. I see him in my nephews and wish he was here to have met them. They would’ve loved Great Grandpa Papa Doc and he would’ve loved them to the moon and back. BMan knows who he is from pictures and knows he’s in heaven but I hate that he missed out on the opportunity to have met him. To get whisker burn kisses. To be tickled til he was laughing so hard he couldn’t breathe. To be taught to stand up for what you believe in and to always do the right thing.
RIP Gramps. I miss you. I love you. I hope I make you proud.