It been 7 years to the day.
7 years since I lost the last person who I could call ‘grandpa,’ and really feel deserved that name. There’s been a new one who’s come along since you, and he’s wonderful. But I still sometimes feel odd using that name to his face even though, on my wedding day, he welcomed me to the family and told me to call him grandpa from then on. When that happened, I broke a little, it’s been so long since you, and I’m rusty with that name, but I’m trying to get comfortable with it again.
As a kid, you and grandma would watch me when my mom would go run the errands that I hated. I’d cry when she dropped me off, sometimes try to run after her, but then I’d calm down. Something about your corny jokes, mixed with grandma’s cookies made me feel safe and calm again. I’d read those children’s stories you’d kept on the bottom shelf, and not want to leave: ‘Where the wild things are,’ my book of choice.
There’s a picture you framed and gifted to me, of us, somewhere in my parents house right now. It’s me at 11, maybe 12, grinning from ear to ear, sporting big glasses, and hugging you. It’s my favorite one because it looks like you had just told me a joke, and although I don’t remember the picture being taken, I’m fairly sure that’s what had just occurred. You loved to joke, something you and uncle Raymond seemed to have in your DNA. Naps were also a favorite past time of yours and his… there’s a picture or two to prove it.
I remember calling you one sunny day in fifth grade. I had missed the bus, and didn’t have anyone else to call, so I picked up the phone, dialed your number, and through tears, asked you to take me to school. You showed up 30 minutes later, and assured me it wasn’t a big deal, that this was something you were here for and happy to do. You were always there for that kind of thing.
I started playing softball in elementary school, desperately wanting to be as good as ichiro: my all time favorite Mariner. You were always in the stands, cheering alongside grandma for ‘little ichiro’ as you called me, a nickname I wore with pride. I was never very good at hitting, but you were still always there watching. My dad was my coach in 6th grade… The last one to let me pitch. You were in a wheelchair at that point, but that didn’t stop you from coming to my games that were close by. I caught you wheeling yourself across the grass during our second inning in one game, ready to watch some boring fastpitch. I was on the mound for the remainder of the time left, my dad knowing it was me you were there to see.
As time went on, your bones grew weaker, but your stubbornness never wavered. You still tried to be there for my school activities when you could, making it to a few choir concerts here and there. But at some point, you found yourself limited by your weakening muscles. Thanks for trying anyhow: it really meant a lot.
Hospice came, and with that, a limit on your time here. They say hospice is for a year or less, but you beat that by about a year. 2 years came and went, and I stopped hugging you as you grew weaker. I was so afraid to break you, that I stupidly stopped hugging you. And no matter how much I wish I could go back to those days, and give you a big hug, I can’t… and I’m sorry. I’m so sorry I took away something that meant so much to you – you always said I gave the best hugs- because of my own fears. I’m sorry I disconnected, even before you were all the way gone. I think grandma knew that fear I had, and she told me that you would like a hug, so I gave you one… A weak one. A frail one. One with nothing behind it, like hugging the wind. And it was the last one you got from me. THAT alone will always haunt me, and I can’t apologize enough for it.
Your love for the Lord was evident in your life, and your love for your family was just as clear. I hope you knew how much we all loved you as well.
I wish you could have met Calvin. I think you two would have really liked each other. I wish you could have seen me get married. I wish you could have known the Dykstra’s the way grandma knows them. I wish you were still here. But the bottom line is, you’re not. You never met the Dykstra’s, you won’t get to know my kids, you weren’t on earth as I graduated, moved out of state, or got married. And that’s just the way it is. There is no going back, erasing time, or slowing things down: we can only remember the past for what it was, and learn to live in the present.
So for now, I say see you later.
I hope you’re enjoying a nap with Uncle Ray. I hope you’re cracking jokes with Grandpa Bovee. I hope you’re watching old Mariners games and enjoying an endless life. I’ll see you when I see you, and I’ll give you a big hug then.
Love and miss you,