Today is the day my grandpa would have turned 87. It's been four and a half years since he passed away. Some days it feels so much longer than that while others it feels like it was just yesterday. Grieve is complicated. If you've lost someone close to you I'm sure you already know that. It is unpredictable and can strike at any time. I don't know if it gets easier over time or if it's actually getting harder. Of course I have so many amazing memories that I hold on to but the more time that passes, the harder I have to work to remember everything about him. There is so much I don't want to forget. I was lucky to have my grandpa in my life for 22 years and I am finding that it helps to write my memories of him down. So that is what I am doing today. Sharing some of my favorite memories of the time I had with my grandpa.
My grandpa was so involved in each of our lives. While my sisters and I were young, my parents were on a bowling league (which seems like such a 90s thing to say). But every Saturday that they would bowl, my grandparents would watch us. They were such good sports and would let us entertain them in the most over the top ways. My sisters and I would put on our fuzzy socks, grandpa would dim the lights and start playing Celine Dion's My Heart Will Go On as we 'ice skated' around the kitchen. He would cheer like we had just competed in the olympics. But he was like this in every aspect of our lives, and my grandma too. They were always the first grandparents that showed up to grandparents day (which embarrassed me). He was always front row for all our sporting events & recitals. Even when his eyesight had gotten so bad to the point where he was now blind, he was still always front row, cheering us on.
When I was 16 I had my tonsils removed. My sisters had a basketball game so my parents headed to that and told me that grandpa would be coming over to keep me company. Since I was still in a lot of pain and could barely talk, and he could barely hear me, you can imagine how this night went. I would say something and he would respond, 'what hunny?' ALL. NIGHT. LONG. I didn't have the heart to say, 'Grandpa, stop talking!' Now I look back and laugh at this but as soon as my parents got home I cried about how much pain I was in from trying to talk all night and get him to hear me. But he always wanted to be around us no matter what was going on. He loved spending time with us. My sisters and I all had such a special bond with him. He used to call me Britty baby, which I loved. He would add baby after all of our names. We would always say to him, 'grandpa who is your favorite.' And he would respond different every time. 'Allie baby!' 'Chelsey baby!' 'Erin baby!' One time Erin called him and said, 'grandpa it's your favorite,' and he responded, 'Chelsey baby!' This still makes us laugh. He was the best at making us laugh.
The love he had for my grandma was the most beautiful thing. They were equal partners all the way. My grandpa adored her. Seeing a relationship like that has been a pretty defining moment in my life. I mean, they were married in the 50s so you would think they assumed the traditional roles a marriage at that time did. But they didn't. My parents emulate that same relationship which has helped shape what I expect out of a relationship in my life. We threw a lot of parties celebrating their wedding anniversary and love. They were married for over 60 years. Sixty! The big 6-0. There was so much love between the two of them, even when they would get on each others nerves. It was an inspiring type of love.
When he was eventually moved to a nursing home, we spent every holiday with him there. One year we were celebrating christmas and he had a miniature tree in his room filled with ornaments. As we pushed him down to the room where we would be celebrating, we brought the tree with us. Oh and we shook that tree the whole way trying to make him laugh and quite frankly just being obnoxious. We lost so many ornaments and as they shattered to the ground he would yell, 'god dammnit girls.' Which made us laugh a million times harder. He would get so frustrated as that clearly wasn't his intention to make us laugh but he ended up laughing with us anyways. And the older he got the more blunt he was. One day Erin walked in the room and he said to her, 'it looks like erin shot her diet in the ass.' He was blind so this made it even funnier. I don't think we've ever laughed so hard. Or the time another nursing home resident was talking and he called him squeaky. He always had the best one liners.
My grandpa was also a twin. Growing up that was a little confusing to be honest. But our families have so many memories together that I will cherish forever. They were the best of friends. What they say about twins is really true...their bond is incredible. Towards the end of both of their lives we would celebrate their birthdays together. On the menu? Mincemeat pie and cake. Although I wouldn't go near mincemeat pie with a ten foot pole, they loved it. They would each open presents while Uncle John kept his hand on my grandpa's knee and say back and forth to each other, 'what did you get?' It was always so fun to watch them interact with each other, especially the older they got.
I will never forget the day my sisters and I were called home. 'grandpa's breathing is bad, they don't know how much longer it will be.' We all rushed to be with him at the nursing home. Tears immediately flowed as I entered his room and ran to his side. I was running my fingers through his hair, which he was always so proud of, and he knew I was messing it up. So his last words to me were 'god dammit' which today makes me smile. We stayed by his side around the clock for the next few days. I will always hold on to those memories. We cried ( a lot) and reminisced ( a lot). One night my sisters and I even slept overnight in the nursing home lounge just to be close if something happened. Even though they were some of the hardest days, I'm also so thankful for them. The strength of family was so evident, and that was all thanks to the life my grandpa led. He was loved by so many. It made me so proud to be an Omen. The picture above is the last picture I have with him. He passed away a week after this was taken on May 17, 2014. Erin said the most profound thing to us that still to this day gives me a lot of peace. See my grandpa was blind for most of my life so when he passed, she said, "he can finally see us again." That was the greatest comfort. So here's to you grandpa. You led such a live worth following and I hope we are making you proud. Happy birthday.
"And I would never leave you cause I am in the stars & everywhere you are. And every single little moment, every single bit of sunshine just know that I am right by your side. Know that you are right by my side."