There is nothing in the world that could have prepared me for the loss of my grandfather. It has been just over 24 hours since I have heard the news, via text. Everyone keeps death in the back of their minds because it is an experience that everyone has to go through at some point, in some way. It’s nothing that anyone wants to think about. So no matter how inevitable or impending it is, it is always a surprise.
My friend reminded me that someone’s true colors show when they handle tragedy. You can learn about their character, their positive attributes and their weaknesses. I am getting to know a side of myself that I did not know well before. Initially upon hearing the news, I called my brother, sobbing. He is the first person I think of when I need help. I shared a photo on my instagram accounts and on facebook. I am not sure how or why social media has become a part of the coping process, but it has. I didn’t tell anyone else, unless they specifically asked. I responded to very few messages & texts. Eventually I called my mother. I sobbed all day. I forced myself to work at a coffee shop only to find myself in tears in front of the barista who eventually insisted on giving me a kombucha “because it at least has some alcohol”. I couldn’t get out of bed, I ordered pizza delivery and picked at it until it was cold. I slept for 12 hours and now walk around in a new day as if I am a zombie without a purpose to exist.
I won’t let a tragedy take me down but right now I need to figure out how to move forward. I don’t know, I haven’t done this before so the best thing I can think to do is get it out. My words are stuck in my head and there is not a therapist in the world that can drag them out but my fingers can. I’ll type….
My grandparents lives in Houston until I was 8 years old. They lived across the street from my elementary school and would ‘pick’ me up in the afternoons to stay at theirs until my parents took me home. My grandmother took me out for soft serve dairy queen some afternoons. My grandfather would let me win at checkers, until eventually he wasn’t really letting me win anymore. He would make me pancakes in various shapes and make me guess what they were. One day he made a perfectly round pancake and asked me what it was, I guessed every round object I could think of, until eventually he yelled “it’s a pancake, silly!”. My grandmother would undo the pigtails that my 4th grade teacher forced me into that I hated so much. My grandmother was a pisces and my grandfather was a cancer. In my life, I only dated one or the other and to this day most of my closest friends are pisces. It broke my heart when they moved to Lake Havasu. It was the same year that my brother turned 18 and became an ‘adult’ and the same year my father moved out of my childhood home due to separation. For 4 years, it just felt like I had myself. I don’t remember much about those 4 years. I visited Lake Havasu a few times growing up but like with any ‘long distance relationship’, you grow apart. I graduated from high school, then college and eventually started making more consistent trips. I attended a photography conference every year and made trips down to see him. After my grandmother passed away in 2012, I made sure to make trips more often. I had no idea that he would last another 5 years after her. He used to cry every time I left knowing that it could very well be the last time he could see me. Eventually he stopped crying because he knew I’d be back. He eventually saw how much I really loved and cared for him. I sent him a postcard from everywhere I went. He must have had 100s, although I don’t think he held on to them. I only made two trips to Lake Havasu in 2016. I didn’t see him the first trip because he felt that he was too sick. The second trip, I spent every day with him. We had dinner one day, then lunch another day, then I made him pancakes, that he didn’t eat, the third day. We talked for hours. He sat in his chair and we talked, then he would cry, then I held his hand, and we cried together like blubbering messes. I asked him about his most memorable life moments and wrote them down. I forced him to be in photos. He said he was proud of me. He never judged me. He never made me feel ashamed of who I was. I told my grandparents things that no one else knows. They loved me unconditionally. I knew the bone cancer was getting worse but in my heart had hoped that I could see him one more time. I didn’t think it would happen while I was 5,400 miles away in London. My heart feels empty without him in it. Who will I send postcards to now?
I will spend the next few days wondering what he would have wanted for me… I know that he wanted me to slow down. He wanted me to be happy and to find someone that could tame my wild heart. That job is not for the weak though. I have a fire like my grandmother and a heart like my grandfather. I hope that their passion can live on through me….