My last words to my grandpa were: “I love you.”
My dad and I visited him in the hospital on Oct. 28. That was day 2 of 21. He was obviously very sick, but still in good spirits.
He had asked the nurse to turn up the thermostat in his room, but 45 minutes later, she still hadn’t done it. He was cold – and annoyed – and planning to give the nurse a hard time about it when she finally showed up.
He wouldn’t let us remind any of the nurses.
The nurse had told him it would be “just a minute,” so he planned to pretend he had been holding his breath until she arrived. He would exhale and then say: “Oh, has it been a minute already?”
When we left, we said our goodbyes as we had done for years:
“I love you, Grandpa.”
“I love you, too, Sara.”
He is my greatest loss. He was the best grandpa we could have ever asked for. I am thankful to have called him mine for 30 years – so very thankful.
He hugged us and kissed us. When he would tell us that he loved us, it was often followed by the story of how his grandfather didn’t even know who he was, much less tell him that he loved him. Then he would tell us how fortunate he was to have granddaughters like us.
He played with us. He had this game we’d play called “Frankenstein.” The best way I can describe it is a mix of don’t-wake-daddy meets hide-and-seek. He would lay down and pretend to sleep. Then Kelsey and I would mess with him until whatever we did finally woke him up.
One time we put M&Ms in his hand. He didn’t wake up. He ate them, but he didn’t wake up.
We wanted him to wake up, but we didn’t want him to wake up. The anticipation was crazy. When he finally woke up, that’s when we had awaken the monster. He had mastered Frankenstein’s zombie shuffle and throaty moan. It would make us scream! Then Kelsey and I would run upstairs to hide from him. When he found us, we’d go back downstairs and do it again. It was scary, exciting and tons of fun.
(He even played “Frankenstein” with his two border collies, after we had outgrown the game. The dogs loved it, too!)
Grandpa also included us in his day-to-day activities. If the green beans needed picking, we were the ones he assigned to pick them. If he was preparing dinner, he would have us wash, slice or chop for him.
He was tough on us when we shared the kitchen, though. When I was younger, I didn’t know how grip a paring knife while trimming or peeling fruits and vegetables. Heck, I still don’t. It annoyed him. He exclaimed: “Haven’t you ever used a knife before?!” and sent me out. That was Grandpa. Although, he softened with age. He was easiest on Kevin, Sofia and Yashar.
He taught us how to play classical guitar. He picked up the guitar as a hobby in retirement. After he learned the basics, he decided he would teach all of his grandchildren how to play. He even bought Kelsey and I our own guitar. I was in high school, Kelsey was in middle school. We took three months of lessons with him, but we were too busy with school to continue after summer vacation. We were not allowed to teach ourselves chords. He also kept a close eye on the position of our left thumbs on the neck. He wasn’t supposed to see it.
He would have deep conversations with me. It wasn’t very often, but he would. I remember one talk we had (with Grandma) about the religions of the world. When I said I wasn’t sure if there was a God, he responded: “Don’t say that! Of course there is a God.” Then Grandma added: “If there is a God, she’s a black woman.”
He shared books with me that he enjoyed reading. Most recently, he was reading books by Erik Larson. He had me read “The Devil in the White City” and “Isaac’s Storm.” I finished “Isaac’s Storm” about two weeks before he was admitted into the hospital. When I returned it to him, we chatted about hurricanes in Texas and Erik Larson’s writing style. It was like we had our own book club, just me and him.
He would tell us how fortunate he was to have granddaughters like us, but we were just as fortunate – if not more – to have him as our grandpa.
After I returned to work from bereavement leave, I received a call from a reverend at a local church. She told me: “As your grandfather’s granddaughter, you will always carry him with you, and you will pass him on to your children, his great-grandchildren. He lives within you.”
She’s right. Grandpa isn’t gone because he’s right here, with me. In my heart.