17 years ago today I found out that my grandpa had died. 17 years. Sometimes I can’t believe it’s been so long, and other times it seems like forever…
I want to tell you all about him, but I’m not sure that words can capture the man that he was. He was an army veteran and a veteran’s advocate. He worked blue collar jobs, and was president of his local VFW chapter. He didn’t have a lot of money, but would give you the shirt off of his back (literally) if you needed it. He opened his home to anyone in need. He never swore. Even in combat. He thought that using swear words meant that you had a limited vocabulary. If he was at home, and sitting, he was probably asleep or falling asleep. He snored. Loudly. He smoked a lot. He taught his last dog how to bark by getting down on his hands and knees in the living room and making barking noises at her. He looked larger than life in a business suit (his normal attire) and short and frail in a sweat suit. He had a pair of pants that he called his “snicker” pants- they were so crazy and ugly that people would “snicker” at him when he wore them. He loved them! He used to come over on Saturday mornings and bring me doughnuts from Krispy Kreme that had pink icing and sprinkles.
He was one of my favorite people the whole world.
I saw him the night he died. I was at Acme with my mom and he and my Gram walked in the door while we were going toward the check-out. I was excited because I was supposed to go to a pool party the next day. They suggested that they pick me up and take me to dinner afterwards (to celebrate my good last report card.) It was going to be the BEST DAY EVER!
I remember the last hug I gave my grandpa. I always gave him my best hugs. I remember that I didn’t want to let go, so while I was walking away, I ran my hand down his arm and held his hand until we weren’t close enough to touch anymore. He smiled.
My Gram told me, later, that the last conversation they ever had was about where to take me for dinner.
HUNDREDS of people came to pay their respects at his viewing. People were lined up outside the building and down the block to say goodbye to the man that I called “Grandpa.” Even at 10 years old, I was in awe of the number of lives that he touched.
17 years ago, and I can remember it like it was yesterday. 17 years feels like a lifetime.
I love you, Grandpa. Even after 17 years, I can still feel you with me. I pray that I can teach my children the values that you instilled in me during the short time we existed on this planet together. I know that, when I hear the first cry of my baby, you will be smiling down on us with pride and celebration.