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Wednesday, July 6, 2016

A letter to my Grandpa, on this hot summer night

Grandpa March 1, 1935 - May 16th, 2008
March 1, 1935 - May 16th, 2008

Dear Grandpa,

I've been thinking about you a lot lately. The other night I cried myself to sleep, because even though it's been since 2008, I can't believe you're gone. I still get angry at the person you were before you got old, because that man wasn't a good person, not at all. However, age, poor health, and watching your wife of over 50 years slowly die, changed you into the type of person I'm very proud to be related to. I hate that it took hardship to change you. I hate that I missed out on all the years I could have spent with you, if you'd just been the same man you were when you were old, but when I was a kid.

You built the most beautiful earth home, but I always wondered why you never opened windows anymore once Grandma got sick. I guess it was depression. The house was beautiful, and felt very homelike, not like it did when I was little. Right now I'm imagining myself sitting on the screened in front porch in the dark. You're taking itty bitty sips of coffee, which you're not supposed to do with your feeding tube, and you are playing old songs on your harmonica. After awhile it's quiet, and we sit back and listen to the sounds of the Ozarks at night. We can hear the bullfrogs croaking down by the pond, and crickets making their own noise. In the distance we can hear a whippoorwill. Whippoorwills always make me think of Grandma for some reason. In front of the screened in porch stands a statue of The Blessed Virgin Mary in a grotto. She's surrounded by roses, and lit up with a blue light. By the pond I can see your flags, there's a spotlight on them, so they're easily visible in the dark. The American flag flies high, and below it the POW MIA flag. I know you still wear the name of a Vietnam vet infinitely MIA on a bracelet around your wrist, so as long as you live he won't be forgotten.

My Grandpa on a United States Navy ship
My Grandpa on a United States Navy ship

I wish that's how my night was going. I wish you hadn't died, but I understand why you wouldn't have wanted to live any longer. Your heart was breaking, and I know you suffered a constant ache in your soul, knowing there would be a day that your wife would no longer recognize you. I don't know if she still recognized you when you passed or not. I hope so. I desperately hope so, but I don't want to ask my mom, because I'm too afraid of what the answer will be.

I won't ever visit your grave. Knowing you were probably buried with formaldehyde in your veins, that your body is unnaturally preserved, makes me want to vomit. I can't deal with that.

I'm having such a hard time with nightmares still. Since you died in 2008 I've had at least three nightmares per week where I'm trying to get to you, only to find you dead right before I get there. I don't know if you knew how much I loved you before you passed. I bought you an Easter card in 2008, and forgot to mail it. I remember telling myself I'll save it for next year, instead of mailing it late this year. A month and a half later, you were gone. I should have sent the damn Easter card late. I think about this all the time. If only I had sent that card and wrote in it how much I love you, then I'd know you died knowing it.

My Grandpa and Grandma at their wedding
My Grandpa and Grandma at their wedding

Do you know that I don't know anything about what you did in Korea? I know what boat you were on, but I only know that. I know you loved corn fritters and coconut cream pie, and if you'd come back, and could eat again, I'd make them for you as often as you could eat them.

Sometimes I dream that I arrive at your home, only to see the pond overgrown with algae, and the no longer mowed grass has turned into just hilly fields. I always run into the woods first, looking for you, but of course you aren't there. Sometimes I run into the house, and other people live there, or sometimes I see your decaying body in an armchair, only to find Grandma dead in her bedroom. I can't wake up from these nightmares, and I feel like I've lost you hundreds of times. I've been told I don't deal with death well, but does anyone?

I know you were a faithful Catholic, going to Mass on Sundays, and were trained to take the Mass to Grandma in the nursing home. The Body of Christ (The Eucharist) had it's own little pouch that you had to return on Monday. You believe in a Christian Heaven, and that's where my mom believes you are now.

Everyone in town looked up to you. Whenever I told someone who my Grandpa is, they always had a high opinion of you, even back when you weren't a nice man. There were so many times that even when my own parents didn't believe in me, you did. You'd tell me not to listen to what other people said, that I can achieve my dreams, and that I'd be a good mom someday.

I know I have to live with just these memories because I can't make any new ones with you. You'll never get to meet DH, or your future great-grandchild when I have a baby someday. I'll keep your memory alive, though. As long as I live, in a way, you will, too.



My Grandpa and the model ship he built
My Grandpa and the model ship he built


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