When Grandpa’s cancer starting to get worse, everyone knew that he didn’t have a lot of time, including him. Usually the only time I talked to him on the phone was when he called my Dad’s house, or on holidays when I couldn’t be there. But it was around this time that I started calling him once or twice a week. He was always so cute, so honest, telling me if it is was a good day or a bad day.
On Monday, after one of our calls, I immediately phoned my dad. “I want to come home this weekend to see Grandpa.” And four days later I boarded a plane. I have a hard enough time saying goodbye to someone I won’t see for a few months. But saying goodbye to someone, I mean really saying goodbye, that is an even harder concept to grasp.
Saturday night my Dad, Linda and I met up with my aunt, uncle and three cousins for martinis. We laughed a lot, drank more and told silly stories. The next morning my cousin picked me up and we headed to see Grandpa. Groggy from the previous night, we stopped for Starbucks and in a way to kill just a little more time.
We went to his house and despite him being there and awake, we never got to see him. Two rooms away had never felt like such a distance. After an hour of sitting in the kitchen, waiting, we left. I got back to my Dad’s, took one look at him, and burst into tears, explaining that I never got to see Grandpa. That I never got to say goodbye. I had told him two days earlier on the phone that I as coming. I didn’t want him to think I lied.
Getting on a plane back to DC that afternoon, I had never felt such a heavy heart. It was saying goodbye to someone before they were gone. Being forced to let go when you didn’t have to. Being cheated out of hugging someone for the last time. Driving back to my apartment from the airport I let out a scream that came from a depth in my heart that I didn’t even know existed. I had never been that angry before and have never been that angry since.
Grandpa died about three weeks later, a few days after my sister’s wedding. That was his goal -- to make it to her wedding. And even though he wasn’t there in being, he was there in every other way.
I am not sure what made me remember this, the time of year maybe. But I do know what makes me remember Grandpa… the smell of cigars, Klondike ice cream bars, scratchy wool, and anything golf related. If I had one wish in life I would be to go back to that afternoon, march into Grandpa’s room and give him that hug goodbye that I never got to give.