I was very fortunate growing up that both sets of my grandparents were living, not to mention a great-grandma. We didn’t get to see them as often as we would have liked but again we were lucky to have them.
Death was not something we ever had to deal with as no one close to us (my brother or I) had died.
I was 19 when I lost my first grandpa. I remember it all like it was yesterday. I called my mom after work to tell her I would be home late. She told me she thought I should come right home. Immediately I wanted to know what had happened to my grandpa. I told her I would come right home and I was fine to drive but I wasn’t. I cried until my eyes were swollen shut. I ended up about half way home at a friends house who I had drive me the rest of the way. The next morning we were on a plane and were able to spend time grieving, saying goodbye and letting go. It was hard, but I was able to move on.
It was 7 years ago Sunday that I lost my other grandpa. These two men could not have been more different than night and day. The first was caring and compassionate and never met a stranger. The other was a mean, alcoholic with a temper that made you shake in your boots just being in the room with him some days.
My first grandpa was older and having some heart complications so it was somewhat on the horizon.
The second was sitting in his favorite recliner watching Wheel of Fortune and had a stroke. He was rushed from Podunk to the nearest hospital and then flown to Big City Hospital. They kept him alive until all of his children could make it home. My mom and her brother that live here flew back leaving my aunt, cousin and I to come out a few days later.
On the way to the airport a huge rain storm hit. This caused our flight to be delayed. We had a connection in Denver that they promised us was being held for us (and about 100 other passengers). When we finally got to Denver they looked at us like we had 3 heads when we told them we were promised they were holding our flight. Long story short – we ended up spending the night in Denver. We were miserable, tired, hungry and confused, yet I never was able to cry.
This was just before cell phones were a big thing so we had to scramble to make calls to those who were picking us up, and make calls to those who were waiting for us to be picked up.
The funeral was at 10:00 a.m. we were leaving Denver at 8:00. We had a 2 hour flight and at least a 2 hour drive depending on what the weather was when we landed. My aunt, cousin and I got to the church just as they were cleaning up from the luncheon that was after the funeral and burial.
There really were no goodbyes. There was no grieving at the funeral (by us). There was no finalization of it all at the cemetery. I just could not let it go. I struggled the rest of the time I was there and for months after I came home. His birthday sent me into a downward spiral. When I go to visit my grandma I still expect to see him sitting out on the deck smoking his pipe filled with cherry tobacco and handing out juicy fruit gum to his grandchildren and great grandchildren.
We have been so busy lately that I didn’t realize or maybe just didn’t have time to think about the fact that Sunday was the anniversary of his death. When I looked at the calendar on Monday and realized it had passed without a thought I beat myself up over it like you would not believe. Then the tears came and I just could not stop. I cried for what seemed like an eternity. Deep sobbing cries. Then just like that I was done. I think that finally after 7 years I was able to say goodbye, grieve and feel like I could let it all go.
It only took me 7 years to realize that by letting go, I was not letting go of him just the heartache that went along with it. I have realized that I can miss him without the guilt of the idea that I missed him.
Grandpa, my your coffee cup never be empty, your pipe never burn out, your gum never loose its flavor and may your horse win, place or show. I’ll see you again someday.