As much as I’d rather act as if it never happened, omitting this event from a blog that serves partly as our family’s chronicles would be remiss. On February 1, 2014, my grandfather stopped living. I’ve never been more saddened by anything in my entire life. I’ve lost loved ones – in fact, just 10 months ago I lost my grandmother who I loved just as dearly. But she had been ill, and while it was still surprising, it didn’t rock me the way that this has. It didn’t seem impossible for it to be true. The thought had crossed my mind that she may not be here with us for much longer. But this feels so different. I’m having a difficult time accepting the fact that the PawPaw I had just spoken to and made Super Bowl plans with the very day of his passing is actually gone. Gone. In the months following his soul mate’s death, our family made a point to meet up with PawPaw weekly (Stevie’s idea), be it dinner at Luby’s or Pappas BBQ (which he insisted on referring to by its former name – Brisket House) or Sunday morning breakfast at Dot’s. In the early weeks, it was awkward. I missed my grandmother. He missed her a million times more and it permeated everything around us. I realized I didn’t know very much about him. And I wanted to know even less because my brain told me that if I pushed away, it would be less painful for me when he met my grandmother’s same fate. Naturally, this didn’t work. Every week I learned something new about his past, his interests as a young adult, his relationship with my grandmother, his favorite foods, his views on race and religion. And every week I opened up more about my own life and habits and goals. He was always supportive, always encouraging and always of the mindset that doing what makes you comfortable and happy is the way to go. I think it takes 80 years for some of us to learn that.
In those months, I watched my children grow to love PawPaw. Really love him. In the beginning, Stevie would remind them to give PawPaw big hugs and hellos and PawPaw gleamed every time. But after a short while, they required no prompting. It was the real deal. Even Parky lunged from my arms to his as soon as we met. The first time this happened – about 2 months into our weekly meals – we were at Cici’s and he joked that no one would ever believe it had happened. It happened every single time beyond that point. And he was always smitten by it.
The Sunday following his death PawPaw was scheduled to come to our home for a Super Bowl celebration. He was to be the guest of honor, the only guest. It seems insignificant, but for someone who is extremely reluctant to invite people into their homes, it was a big step. It was all the proof I’d ever need that I had truly let him into my heart, into my life, into my immediate circle. Man, I wish he had made it. But I also know how selfish that is. I know how agonizing every evening he spent alone here on this earth without his Gloria was to him. And despite how shaky my faith can be sometimes, I have to know they’re together right now, the both of them happier than they’ve ever been, her telling inappropriate jokes, and him shaking his head and laughing sheepishly. It just can’t be any other way.