Tuesday, November 4, 2014

A Tribute to my Grandpa

There have been many people in my circle of friends and family who have recently lost someone. Sometimes they have lost a loved one, a friend or coworker. But the overwhelming theme lately seems to be loss.

I'm not sure why that is, but it prompted me to think of the deaths I have experienced in my own life. I've lost two grandpas, and several of my husband's grandparents/aunts have also passed in the last two years.

But, for me, the loss that stands out the most is the loss of my great-grandfather. Grandpa Asay is a staple in all of my childhood memories. He was there for violin concerts, birthdays, baptisms, baby blessings but most of all every Sunday evening was spent with him. Every Sunday evening my mom would pack us all in the car and we would head off to Grandma and Grandpa Asays. There we would watch Bambi on repeat, play with lincoln logs, old fashioned telephones and mostly explore their magical backyard.

I would ask Grandma for a candy, and Grandpa would sneak me two. Outside, Grandpa never failed to push me on the swing, sending me soaring into the clouds. He would show me where to find the best of the raspberries, and he proved my mother wrong by showing me that money DID grow. Just not on a tree. He turned his, then, giant backyard into a magical land full of elves, cowboys and baseball.

When I was learning to write my numbers he painstakingly taught me how to write my 2's. Curly and distinctive. I write my 2's the same way to this very day, and I often look back and smile at the memory of him patiently showing me how to make that 2 just right, dim lights: yellow counter top and squeaky pencil.

Easter egg hunts were better in his backyard. And Christmas wasn't Christmas without going to Grandma and Grandpa's house, where all the unmarrieds would dress up and act out the nativity and then sing Christmas songs until Santa made his appearance, because Grandpa asked him to drop by. And then the brown paper bags with candy and little oranges were given to all. And I would sit on Santa's knee and boldly ask for ponies, puppies and a little sister.

Even as a teenager I looked forward to those evenings at Grandpa's house. There is something about being in a place so full of love that not even the babies want to fight. But as I grew older, so did he. That didn't stop our special connection. He often told me how I was his "special girl, and I love you more than you know."

Soon, the dementia set in and instead of seeing me for me, I was my mother in high school. I happily answered to, "Shirlyn" and cherished what moments I had with him.

Soon, but really a few years later, he was suddenly gone. I remember the night of his death so clearly because I knew he was gone before the phone even rang.

I had been engaged, and just a few weeks earlier my fiance had out of the blue called off the wedding and broken my heart. I had gone home for the weekend, wanting to be cuddled by my understanding mother. That night, I was laying on the hood of my car staring at the bright summer stars. In the country the stars are so clear and close they can take your breath away. I was feeling so alone and discarded, like I had done something horribly wrong and deserved this broken heart. My eyes had just filled up with tears wondering how I was supposed to move on with my life. And then, Grandpa was there.

His presence was so strong that I felt if I just turned my head I would see him sitting next to me. I had that, "you are loved and safe" feeling he exuded just wash over me. And, clear as a bell, I heard him say, "Jeannie you are my special girl, and I love you very much. You deserve the best things in life." And then he was gone. And I knew that he had transitioned from my earth angel, to my guardian angel. Just as sure as I knew that I would and could go on with life.

I have a hard time thinking about his funeral, about saying that final goodbye. But I remember, after the service, they set up a mic while his many children and grandchildren and great-grandchildren ate the food Grandma would make sure was on their plates. Anyone who wanted too could get up and say a memory. I couldn't manage to get up there. His final goodbye to me was still so near to me, and I knew that I would be incomprehensible if I tried to say anything else.

Its been years since he has been gone. But he has shown his presence in my life when I needed him most. At the time in my life I felt so alone and helpless and hurt, he was there. With those same words, and that overwhelming love. I miss him every single Christmas. And at my cousin's recent baptism I found myself in tears at his absence. Part of me still misses him every single day, even though he has shown how active in my life he really is.

Sometimes when I'm faced with decisions, the decision I go with is the one I know Grandpa would be most proud of. But I also go through my days with the complete knowledge that he loves me. No matter what. Forever.

"Because someone we love is in heaven, there is a little bit of heaven in our home."

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