A letter to my grandpa

“Take care, kid.”

Those are the last words I heard my Paw-Paw say to me, both in person and on the phone. Those were often his parting words, his way of telling me that he loved me.

Somehow I just had a gut feeling the last time I saw him that it would be the last time. It was in late December of last year, about four months ago, sadly. His Alzheimer’s had him confused, but I know he knew who I was. We spent time watching tv and talking about the weather, pretty typical for a visit to see him. I could tell, however, that he was not feeling well and was slowly declining in health.

Over the past few months, his memory had slipped further and further from normal. His cancer returned for the fourth time, this time all over the place, and my once-so-strong and stubborn grandfather could not survive the toll it took on his body.

I kind of jinxed myself. In one of my recent posts, I wrote about the passing of my grandmother last March and how I had been lucky to have closure with every relative and loved one that had passed away at that point. This time, that is not the case.

I am so glad that I was able to hear his voice a couple weeks ago, telling me to take care. I knew he wasn’t doing well both physically and mentally, but he remembered to tell me the phrase that so often came at the end of phone calls and visits with him. My tough-as-nails, stubborn as a mule, set in his ways grandpa, that grew up in a generation that didn’t convey emotions well, had his own way of letting me know he loved me, and I understood.

When I got the news of his most recent diagnosis a week and a half ago, I knew it wasn’t good. I knew that I needed to go see him, and was planning on it within the upcoming 2 weeks. They had given him a couple months to live, and I thought I had time.

That’s the funny thing about time. You never really have it. And here I am, 4 days prior to the day I was going to go visit, and he has passed away as of this morning. I am now left without any grandpas – my dad’s dad passed away when I was 11, and though I have already grieved his loss, it is one I still feel today. Knowing that I now don’t have a grandfather (by blood) in my life at all anymore, is a fact I am grieving as well.

As sad as I am about how quickly he passed, and my inability to gain closure, I am grateful that he did not suffer longer than he did. To watch a loved one battle cancer multiple times, struggle with COPD, suffer from Alzheimer’s, and then ulit matey lose the battle to cancer, is an awful, awful thing. I watched my grandpa, a man who used to be strong as an ox, become a weak and frail individual. He was not himself. In a way, I’m glad I didn’t see him at the end – I certainly know it wasn’t truly the man I knew as my Paw-Paw.

Since I didn’t get my closure, though, I would like this chance to tell you how much I love you. I’m sorry that I didn’t visit or call more. I’m sorry that I wasn’t there for you these past few days. I hope that you know I have some great memories from the home you built, growing up out in that rural area and spending time with you. You were a self-made man that started your own company, and your strength and hard work are qualities that are not lost on me. Thank you, in short, for being my Paw-Paw.

Take care, kid.

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