Five years ago, we said goodbye. It was morning when you slipped away, quietly leaving behind this world. We’d known it was coming, had been waiting for the cancer to have it’s final say. We did our best to keep you comfortable with regular doses of morphine in those last days, watching you slowly fade away. Confined to a hospital bed in the home where you’d spent twenty five years, you were scared, and so was I. In so many ways, it seemed like my life was just beginning as yours was ending; I was a new mom with the promise of my children’s childhood in front of me, a whole new chapter ahead. A new chapter for you too, though I’d always imagined it would be a longer chapter for you, being a grandparent. Even though it was short and riddled with doctors appointments, chemotherapy and pain, you squeezed as much into it as you could. You weren’t ready to leave, but you had no choice.
In those last days, you gave your beloved, ragged Jiminy Cricket to Grady, your oldest grandchild, the only one you got to meet. He was just days away from turning one, and so I imagine he doesn’t have any actual memories of you, but he can recognize you in a picture. He knows that the Jiminy Cricket sitting up on a shelf is special, that Granddaddy gave it to him as a very special present. He knows his Neil Diamond too, quickly noting that “this is Granddaddy’s favorite” whenever a Neil Diamond song plays. We talk about the trip we took to Alaska, when he was just a baby, completing that lifelong goal of yours of traveling to all fifty states.
I do my best to make sure my boys know how much you would have loved to be here, watching them at their swim meets, taking them on adventures and reading them books. You never got to meet Macon, but he shares a middle name with you, and he looks like you too. Hayes is just about the same age Grady was that sad November morning, five years ago, and he looks so much like Grady too. I think he might have some of your personality, content and easy-going. So much has happened in five years, and yet it feels like it wasn’t that long ago that we were meeting for lunch or chatting about a book we’d both just read.
There are so many things I’d like to tell you, so many memories I wish you had gotten to be a part of. You still live on in so many ways, the legacy of a faithful man, dedicated husband, father and grandfather, instilling in me the importance of integrity and finding contentment in the simple things in life.
Whenever a Neil Diamond song comes on, I think of you.
I often make a mental note of a news article or book that I want to discuss with you, and then I remember that you’re gone.
When I take my children on a trip, I think of your love of travel and the moment I got to watch you complete your dream of making it to all fifty states.
When I see photos pop up on facebook from dads and their daughters at a Y-Princesses outing, I remember the years we spent on those same adventures, all the memories made, the stories we would retell over and over.
When I see a father-daughter dance at a wedding, I am thankful that we got to have ours.
When being a parent is overwhelming, I think of how thankful I am for the solid, steady way you chose to parent me, making decisions that sometimes frustrated me as a teenager, but that I now am so thankful for, and I strive to give my kids the same.
When I think that life is unfair, I remember how content you were, understanding that simple things are the most satisfying.
When something unexpected sends a wave of grief crashing over me, I let the tears fall, but I also choose to remember to be grateful that I had such an incredible father.
Five years is both a lifetime and a blink of an eye. So much has happened, and yet it feels like yesterday that you were still here, cracking corny dad jokes and singing along to Neil Diamond. How I wish that you were still here, that you had the opportunity to spend time with my boys and watch them grow. How thankful I am when I see glimpses of you in them.