Friday, April 23, 2010

2 Years

Two years ago from April 22, I left school on time and drove to my grandparents' house not 5 minutes away. Poppop was dying, and he was in good, caring hands back in the very house in which my dad, uncles, and aunt had grown up and cultivated so many memories. That house hosted so many family reunions and Christmas parties that it was forever associated with joy, but on that day, I remember being so afraid of walking through the door, as if one could sense an impending separation from that indoor sunshine. The mood was light, only because Poppop always considered himself a "burden" & wanted to, despite the situation, maintain a level of calm.

So when I walked upstairs to see him, I had no expectations for the site. They had him propped up in a hospital bed. My grandparents' bedroom was all disheveled. Aunt Mary & Mommom were there as Poppop asked how my day was, how the boyfriend was, etc., all of the normal inquiries. Of course he wasn't the same, but he still tried to wear a smile, my Poppop who was known for his riddles and his jokes, his unconditional love for his grandchildren, his paternal passion for his children, & his eternal love for his wife.

When I say Poppop cannot be compared to any other grandfather, I'm not exaggerating. He battled cancer like no other, and he was strong throughout. He always sported that smile, and he always bought these crazy mugs against squirrels and their thievery of his birdseed. We all loved him very dearly.

I know for a fact I did not know him as well as I could have. For some reason, as a child, I always felt vastly inferior to everyone around me, and I had a fear of disappointing my grandfather. We grew up in a family of accomplishment, and there were times when I felt I didn't even meet the average. Though it's obvious that Poppop didn't care, I allowed the pressure to overwhelm me.

I really, really, really should not have.

He said he loved me, and this seemed like a sign in which he was trying to say his final good-bye. I, the non-believer, just smiled and said, "I'll see you Thursday, Poppop," and then kissed him good-bye.

I really thought I'd see him that Thursday. I really thought Tuesday wasn't the final good-bye. We were wrong.

That Thursday wasn't such a bad schoolday. I had checked my phone in the morning only because I liked to wish my boyfriend of the time a good day, and used to love receiving those little surprise texts from him. If I had only checked it passed a certain point, I might've realized my mom had called me. Once the 3 pm dismissal bell rang, I didn't check my phone, but instead hung out with my friends until the crowds in the hallway dispersed. I then called my mom back, and she told me as calmly as possible that Poppop had passed away not a few hours before. She tried to reach me, but alas, "I was in school."

It's another one of those moments people believe they may never have to experience. And me, sheltered little, in-a-bubble-at-the-Mount girl finally dove head-first.

I remember a lot of wailing, a lot of tears, a lot of me sliding down my locker and not knowing what to do, and pressing my legs to my chest, and only looking up when Sister Kathleen asked me what was wrong. This nun was my favorite; the president of our high school, she had the heart of the Mother Teresa herself. She stayed with me for a while and got me back on my feet--"He loved you very much, sweetie, I know he did"--and made sure I made it to the car.

The next destination was Poppop's. The drive is hard to recall, but when I finally reached the house, I remember walking in and first seeing my Aunt Mary, and breaking down yet again--"I never really got to say good-bye, I never really got to say good-bye" "He knew you loved him, and he loved you, too".

The viewing, the funeral, and everything afterward--nothing felt the same. My dad delivered the eulogy at the funeral. He had cried before, and I'd only seen him cry twice in my whole life--this time, and another time when a family member basically took my dad's love & threw it back in his sweet face.

When your mom cries, you don't think as much of it as when your dad cries. He's the strong, rational, "masculine" one. He holds your mom while she cries, not the other way around. It broke my heart to say him so emotionally-drained, and I remember he grabbed me and one point and sobbed, and I sobbed with him.

All I know is, I miss my grandfather more than anything, and although I always preach the antihesis of the following statement to my friends: I have regrets, and I wish I could rewind time.

But Poppop wouldn't want this. He would want us to live our lives to the fullest, which is what I will strive to do. In his honor. As my dad wrote in his eulogy, Poppop showed us how to live and how to love. We should always and forever emulate that.

"When you cry, you cry alone, but when you smile, the world smiles with you."
-R.I.P. Robert

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