I’ve never been particularly good at handling grief. I suppose no one really is. As a child, I can remember the feelings I experienced when my Grandma passed away. And Bubba, my paternal grandfather. Although to this day, I don’t know that I could articulate those feelings.
As I grew into my teen years and saw friends pass away, I went from “not good” to “absolutely bad” at handling grief. I numbed my emotions with copious amounts of gut-rot liquor. When my friend Jay died, many nights for a long time after would end with a drunken and clumsy fist fight with a friend, poorly masked tears, or both. Through my later teen years and into my twenties, as other friends and family would pass, the cycle repeated itself.
After moving across the country, I remember being torn that I couldn’t be there when my Nana and my Uncle Jon passed. But through it all, one of the few constants in my life, my grandfather was there, a rock of a stability in the often turbulent seas of my adolescence and early adulthood.
He was recently admitted to the hospital. He’s comfortable. But at 94, it may be his time to go. My mom tells me that when he was regaining his speech, his frustration manifested in a clear, “this is bullshit.” Grampy is nothing if not independent. Perhaps occasionally to the point of being stubborn. I wonder where I get it from…
Now, at 32, sober and exposed to the raw emotions that accompany grief, I find myself as I often do in introspection. Grampy has lived 94 full years. He taught me how to fish. He taught me how to whistle with a blade of grass. Although I never managed to quite get that down…
Even at 94, he was independent. While his garden this year paled in comparison to the vegetable gardens I remember from my youth, he still not only took care of himself but found fulfillment in helping things grow. And his orchid flowered this year.
Memories keep surfacing, as I’m sure will be the case for days to come. I remember the picture of him at my parents’ house, leaning against his motorcycle. I remember Joe the Crow and the other injured animals he saved and nursed back to health. I remember spending hot summer days under the shade of the screenhouse he built, at his house on South Longyard.
As I wait at Gate 15 for my flight to see him, I find myself sad yet grateful. Sad that it may be time to say goodbye. But grateful for having him in my life. And grateful that I have a rare opportunity in that I get to say goodbye to someone I love before they go. I don’t know what I will say. But I’m grateful for the opportunity.