It is hard for me to believe that it has been fifteen years since my grandpa died. Most days, it feels like it has only been within the last five years. This year, the reality looms because of another event that is more prolific to the rest of the world, taking place six days earlier.
It is hard to imagine because he was such a source of joy in my life for eighteen years. Compared to my grandma, my grampy was lovable and always willing to entertain us (although he did leave our grandma to do the bulk of the work). Even though he has been gone for so long, there are still moments when I wish I could tell him things about my life.
The last time I saw him was sometime in August 2001, when we drove out to New York to visit before they went home to Arkansas for the winter (they left later than usual because he got sick at the end of August). I knew he would be changed; my dad had warned me about that, but I was not prepared for what I saw.
My grampy, a man with an abundance of life within him, was reduced to sitting inside their tiny trailer because it was air-conditioned and he was on full-time oxygen. Everyone was outside, enjoying the weather and being together, while he was inside, feeling utterly left out. Even at eighteen, I knew he was miserable. I looked at him, and I knew it wouldn’t be long before he wasn’t here any longer.
I went home that night, and in the moonlight of bedroom, I asked God to not prolong his pain. I felt he had suffered enough, and it wasn’t fair that he should be confined indoors when he was never one to be inside for very long. I think it was a week or two later that he ended up being hospitalized for what ended up being the rest of his life. For the next two or three weeks, he was basically in a hospital bed. He made it home to Arkansas, and died there.
I went to the funeral a week later, still in shock. I walked around the funeral home, where those who had known him for years gathered and socialized. I heard his voice say my nickname, and I spun around to find no one there who would have called me that. The last moment I recall feeling his presence was as I ushered my youngest sisters out of the funeral home to the car, and a cold gale whipped around us. It was warm that September 24th, an Indian Summer-like warmth, and sunny. We walked out of that funeral home, and it had become cloudy and that cool wind blew the trees. Many would debunk this as a freak thing, but after that wind blew, there was no more wind and the clouds rolled away. I felt invigorated by that wind, and I still feel it was my Grampy saying goodbye.