There goes my hero – a love letter to Grandpa

One of my favorite pictures of us. I think I was almost two here?

Hey everyone,

Today’s post is a little different. I haven’t been on here in the past few weeks for a very sad reason. When I last blogged, my grandfather was rushed to the hospital after a fall at home. We discovered he had been ill and unfortunately, he succumbed to his illness on Dec. 30th, 2021. The funeral is today.

Emotionally, I’ve been heartbroken, full of sorrow and asking God why. I know I’m in disbelief, feeling like Grandpa isn’t really gone. He’s in my home and my heart, and his presence has always been so large that none of this can feel real. But I know once I get to the cemetery (Grandma elected for a gravesite service), reality is going to hit me and I’m going to be a wreck.

I want you all to get to know the Grandpa I knew. This is a love letter to him and I’m inviting you to get to know the man I idolize.

Dear Grandpa,

I wasn’t ready to be writing this letter to you. I’d have loved nothing more than for you to live to be 100 plus some, so we could continue to watch all the directions the world was spinning in. We would be having one of our many conversations about human nature and how times have changed and in some ways not changed at all. We would be sharing a bag of Oreos and milk, a ritual from childhood that we never outgrew.

There’s a twinkle in your eye and a mischievous smile. You were the ornery teenager – one of my favorite stories about you during your Catholic schoolboy days was how you used to sneak into the crawl space under the school and find the snakes, which would then be stuffed in a drawer in the nun’s desk. I can picture you at 14 or 15 with a grin on your face while the commotion was going on around you. Mom recently told me a story from the blizzard of 1978, when all the birds had frozen to death. You somehow attached the birds to the fence before your brother Dan came to visit and scared the bejeezus out of him. Now we all laugh at it.

Your daughter inherited that from you. I should know – I was raised by her and lived with her for 23 out of 30 years.

You liked to have fun and stay up with what the kids were doing. I remember back in 2006, when I was in eighth grade. “My Humps” by the Black Eyed Peas was popular, and you thought that song was hilarious. I had the CD, so that Easter you made me put the song on in the kitchen. We danced around the kitchen, much to the rest of the family’s amusement.

Years later, when Uncle Ralph bought you and Grandma an Alexa, I had her play “My Humps” and we had another dance party. I’d be willing to say both of our moves have gotten worse, but we didn’t care. We were having fun.

We used to go Christmas shopping together, exploring a new place each year. Truth be told, the flea market was my favorite, although the antique shops of Waynesville were gorgeous. You and Grandma were always down to take me to lunch or to parks, and there was always time set aside for each other.

You weren’t only there for the fun times though. You were my bonded father after my bio-dad decided to leave us. You kept such a magic alive at your house when Mom and I lived with you that I didn’t even realize the truth of why we were there until I was an adult. I only remember watching Beavis and Butthead with you, the “butthead dance” you made up and performed for us every night before bed, and the hours on the swing set. You kept happiness alive in a dark time.

When the matter called for it, you were stoic and steadfast. Queen Elizabeth II famously referred to her late husband Prince Philip as her strength and her stay. I can easily say the same about you. During high stress times of divorces, financial insecurity and general instability, you kept calm and helped Mom and I through our struggles. We knew we could count on you to be our guiding light, and you always delivered.

You helped get us the house in West Milton after the second divorce. That place, if I can be frank, was an absolute dump when we first got there. And yet you purchased it, dedicated a summer with our family to flipping it, and by August we had a beautiful, Victorian-era home. The girl whose family used to live there used to come up and tell me, rather proudly, that her family used to live in our house. I knew she thought the place was still a dive. A part of me regrets not inviting her over to see your workmanship. Her jaw would have hit the ground if she could have seen what your labor of love.

You were always willing to trade blood, sweat and tears for your family if it meant any of us could be safe on sturdy ground. You prided yourself on owning your own painting/contracting business for over 40 years, and providing a comfortable life for Grandma, Mom and Uncle when they were growing up. Your father struggled with alcoholism, and you saw your mother working to support the family. You watched that happen as the eldest son, and you understood them. You didn’t want your wife, my grandmother, to have to struggle the way your own mother did. So you manned up to make sure that your adult life would not have any of that in it.

You modeled what providing and protecting looked like to your daughter as well as your granddaughter. I’m not joking whenever I tell people the only reason I’m not an avowed man-hater (as a result of my bio-dad’s choices) is because of your presence in my life. You’re the epitome of what masculinity is and a man should be – self-assured, knowing your purpose, and being completely willing to do whatever it takes for your own family. I don’t even want to think what kind of a mess I’d be without your healthy male influence in my life.

There’s so much I can say and I know I’m rambling. I could easily write a Lord of the Rings-size book about you and all the memories I have. I’m at peace when I think about them and you. At the same time, it’s jarring to think that you are actually gone, no longer with us on earth. Looking back at the timeline from when we brought Grandma home from rehab to when you fell, I realized your last acts were literal acts of love to Grandma.

The rehab center had a Covid outbreak. Grandma somehow miraculously never got it, and in spite of being told the risks of going there, you were the one who went, visited her and picked her up on the day she was released. You were the one who was going to bring her home, because the three weeks without her were too much and you wanted to know she was home safely. You chanced your own health for her.

Even the day you died was no exception. You were on life support and Grandma would have had to make the call when to take you off of it, which killed all of us inside. The day your soul left the Earth, you held on long enough for Mom and me to come see you. You weren’t responsive, but the nurses told us you could still hear us. Mom and I talked to you for a long time, and we promised we’d take care of Grandma. We truly believe that you were waiting for us to come and tell you it was okay to go home, and then you could be on your way.

Shortly after we got home, the hospital called us and said you passed naturally. Even in that moment, you performed one final act of love for Grandma – you spared her having to make the call to end your life.

Your life is an example of bravery, of being willing to take chances. It’s an example of being willing to give and give and give yourself to those you love and to values you hold dear. It’s an example of love in its purest form. I’d even go as far to say it’s commitment and dedication in the most perfect way.

Grandpa, it’s going to be so weird without you. I know you’re in my heart and watching over us, and I hope I continue to make you proud in the afterlife the same way I did in this life. On your deathbed I told you I love you and I’m so proud of the man you are. I hope every day I carry myself in the way that makes you think the same of me. I miss you, I love you and I cannot wait until the day we are home and reunited again.

May your bright light never dim and your spirit be just as bright in Heaven as it was on earth,

Love,

Your granddaughter Allison

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