I haven't posted a whole lot recently, as I'm a full-time working man now, so full-time blogging sort of has to be on the backburner. But don't worry, I haven't abandoned the site, it's just that I have to have (A) some time and (B) something worth blogging about before I can get a post up lately. Usually, that has to do with public relations and journalism, but there's something on my mind today that is much more worthy of a post.
Just one week ago today, I lost my grandfather to cancer. And it wasn't like I lost someone who I only saw on Christmas or who I remember from my childhood — I lost someone I grew up next door to, someone I saw daily until college and at least once a month since. I lost a great friend, mentor and an example of how to live.
I called my grandfather "Granddad," and my earliest memories of him are following him around one of his gardens, eating oatmeal cream pies together at the kitchen table and him bending down to plant a big wet kiss on my forehead, calling me his "sugarlump." As I aged, he called me "a fine young man" and "grandson," but what he called me didn't matter as much as how he treated me and everyone else he met. Granddad was a compassionate, generous man. Though some who didn't know him might have found him quite serious at times, around us he always had such a great sense of humor. I loved it when he would get to laughing because when he found something to be funny, he'd laugh so hard he couldn't stop, and he'd turn red as a beet, as the saying goes.
Speaking of vegetables, Granddad was a tremendous farmer. Our family lives on the old family farm, just across a creek from where my great grandfather's house once stood. Though we never had many animals (aside from a few chickens) while I was growing up, Granddad always maintained about three gardens and a couple small orchards. He loved gardening, and he loved sharing the results with friends and family. I'm pretty sure he was happiest on all fours, with his hands dirty, sweat on his brow, chewing tobacco in his cheek, enjoying nature — and I'm pretty sure most of the time while he was out there alone, he was just talking to God.
When I was a kid, I could run next door to Granddad and Grandmama's house any time. Sometimes I was probably trying to get out of some trouble I had gotten myself into at home, but most of the time I was going because my grandparents and I have always had a strong bond. I went because I loved Granddad's stories, and I admired his examples of hard work and living a Christian life, regardless of what came his way.
When I grew up and would visit, I always knew Granddad would have some good advice. I knew he'd have words of encouragement. And I knew he'd let me know how much he loved me. Sometimes, when I talk to older folks (though, Granddad was only 73, which seems pretty young in retrospect), I feel as though I don't have much in common with them. That was never the case with Granddad and I. We could sit on the back porch or at the kitchen table and actually have a conversation. He was just calming and fun to be around.
There were times Granddad took me fishing, and he was a pretty darn good coach. Every now and then, Dad, Granddad and I would go down to the river and set up along one of the riverbanks there for the evening. Some of us fared better than others (OK, I'll admit, I was never much of a fisherman, though I really enjoy it), but it was the three of us being together that made it memorable, not the fish. There, three generations stood, sometimes talking, sometimes with distances separating us, but never out of one another's line of sight ... never too far to send a look one another's way that said, "I'm here for you."
I'm taking everything pretty well, I suppose. It's easier knowing that Granddad was ready to die. Before going, he had told us that he was ready, that he didn't fear death. It was tough seeing him go, especially so quickly — the cancer took its toll less than a month after diagnosis. As I told my Dad, we lost a member in our trio (my dad is an only child, as am I), and now the two of us have to carry on. It will be difficult, but we care for each other just as much as we cared about Granddad. Just as much as we know he cared about his family. So all that considered, I'm going to be OK because I know he'd want me to be.
The roughest part was the other night after my Dad and I finished putting some new license plates on my car in my grandparent's garage. Dad left the garage, and I was about to follow him out. But something stopped me. I sat down in a chair and looked at Granddad's small tractor on which he used to ride around the land. I looked over at his blue chair by his desk, and I remembered all the times I had sat there, just like that, talking, watching him fix a vacuum or sharpen a pocket knife. I was filled with emotion.
That'll be the most difficult — not watching him ride around when spring comes and not being able to go through old routines like walking in the garage and plopping down to chat over some Gatorade and Beanee Weenees. Or not being able to watch deer together from the back porch, listening to the birds as they argue over who will get to reside in one of Granddad's many bird houses. There's so much I'll miss. But at the same time, having all those good memories of someone you've lost gives you plenty to think about until you meet again.