With the upcoming holiday, I’ve been thinking a lot about death, and about my grandfather.  He was probably the most important man in my life–ever.  He was a man who was embarrassed of his middle name, so much so that some people didn’t even know it until after his death.  He had an odd sense of humor.  He was nicknamed after a hobo that used to come begging in his neighborhood when he was young, because his brothers teased him for being scared of the man.  He married a woman with 4 children, and acted as a father to them.  He was quiet, and spoke only to make a point or bring a smile.  He was once a marine, but that was the smallest part of his life.  He only joined because he thought he’d be drafted eventually anyway, and he didn’t have to fight.  He was on the “cleanup” crew, and saw the worst part of the aftermath of the Korean war.  He never owned a gun again.

He was like a father to me and my brother.  Since my mom was single, we often stayed with my grandparents while she worked or went to school.  He was there for me at every stage of my life, guiding me.  He stood up for me when I needed it.  And he loved me, completely, and unconditionally.  There aren’t many people I could say have loved me like that.

He was strong, and steady.  Even when he was dying, he didn’t want us to worry.  He pretended it wasn’t so bad, until night time when he thought we couldn’t hear, but I could.  I wanted to help him, but I didn’t know how.  So instead, I ran away.  When he was finally hospitalized, I came to see him every day.  But when he was struggling at home, I did my best to stay gone.  I knew I was losing the most important person in my life.

I’m ashamed to say I haven’t done much to honor him since then.  When he died, I kept running, trying everything short of drugs to forget.  I let my life go to hell, destroying the little girl he raised–and the young woman he’d wanted me to be.

May was 4 years since he passed.  It’s time I got myself back together.  It’s time I honored the man who really knew me, knew who I could be.  And if he were here now, I know he would forgive me, and help me get back on track.  Real men like him are so rare today.  I love you, Papaw.

my grandfather

My grandfather, holding me right after I was born.