Last year on December 21st, I had my last conversation with my dad. I asked him how he was, to which he replied a strained, “In pain.” I said, “I hope you feel better soon.” The next day, my well-wishes came true in the most heartbreaking way: he passed in his sleep during a nap.
“Life is for the living.” – Grampy
It’s tough to not see this time of year as being tainted with the memory of losing him and the sadness that followed, although I’m trying to see past the gloom. I know this is what he would’ve wanted, partly because he made a big effort for us kids when his dad died 17 years prior to keep the holiday traditions going. My dad used to say that life was for the living and would encourage us to see the upside during tough times. I know – you’re probably wondering why I’ve given credit of one of my dad’s quotes to “Grampy.”
After a couple gets married, there’s at least one person who asks the newlyweds about whether there are plans to have kids. My dad was that person for us, asking excitedly after we returned from our honeymoon. He was quietly disappointed when I told him we were planning to wait, wanting to enjoy some selfish time together first. It was obvious he couldn’t wait to be a grandpa. As a grandpa, I’m not sure what he would’ve wanted to be called, but since my mom wants to be called Grammy, Grampy seems like a good fit.
Of course, Grampy is not the most manly sounding name, yet I can imagine that my dad would’ve let his grandkids call him pretty much anything and he would have loved it. One silly memory I have from my childhood is my dad catching up with his friend on the phone, then passing it off to us kids, asking us to say hello to Turkey. We would happily oblige. My sister claims that the turkey’s name was John, but that can’t be; John’s a ridiculous name for a turkey!
The Bearded Man
Another memory I have is of him shaving on the weekends when we were little. My sister and I would watch in fits of giggles, enjoying my dad’s foam “beard growing” ability. He’d get a kick out of our reaction and would egg us on even more by giving us kisses while his shaving cream was in full effect.
While I do not want to dwell on this, one thing I do remember about last year was how many people would commiserate by sharing stories of loved ones they’ve lost, saying that it will get better. After a while, it seemed like there was so much death and grief in the world that everything just felt bleak. What I realize now is that death is a part of life, the part that makes it important to make every day, every moment count. For those of us who are lucky to be here long enough to make an impression, we have the ability to make an impact on the world by putting good into it, which will carry on through the people we interact with. I hope I can make “Grampy” proud by living my life well, leveraging everything I’ve learned from him.