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On Thanksgiving we often give thanks for the people and things in our life ~ our families and friends, our health, our jobs, our successes. Every year I am thankful for the people that are in my life that have helped shape me, who continue to help shape me, who make a difference and continue to do so through their lives, and also for those people we've lost.
There is no one more meaningful to me, especially at Thanksgiving, than my (maternal) Grandfather. I've blogged about my paternal Grandfather - a man I never knew, but who, I feel, helped shape my love and need for music. But my other Grandfather, my Grandpa, is the man who helped me become the woman I am today. He helped form the compassion I would grow to have for everyone, regardless of our differences. My Mom taught me that someone's religion, race, sexual orientation, or disability isn't what makes a person who they are. How they are as a person and how they treat others is what makes someone who they are. That was a lesson she learned, perhaps indirectly, from my Grandpa. There may have been things or people he didn't care for or didn't understand, but I never heard him say a bad thing about anyone. All I ever felt from him was Love - love for me and our family, love for others.
My Grandpa was born on Valentine's Day, 1912 in West Virginia. He served in the Navy, he was a bowler, he loved card games and crossword puzzles (both of which I often tried to "help" with when I was a kid), and he loved his garden. He was also the main father figure in my life (along with one of my Uncles). My Mom and I spent a lot of time at my Grandparent's house while I was growing up. I, of course, went through some of the early teen years thinking it was un-cool to hang with the Grandparents, but I always cherished every moment of it. I feel extremely blessed and lucky that I was able to spend time with them and to form a wonderful and unbreakable bond with them.
Over the later years of his life, my Grandpa had some health issues. There were surgeries and time in the hospital. I hated the thought of seeing him in the hospital, and only went once. It's not that I wasn't concerned or didn't care. It was that I hated hospitals and I hated the thought of seeing my Grandpa in one. He was always so happy and active and that is how I liked to see him. In 1992, after some months of him having little energy or desire to do anything, and after great convincing from my Mom and Aunts, my Grandpa was taken to the doctor. Eventually it was discovered he had Cancer. On November 10th he had surgery to remove the Cancer from his colon. It was then that the doctors saw that the Cancer had spread. We then went through the "if he makes it through the night..." and "if he makes through the next couple of days..." tango. It was up and down.
On the evening of Wednesday, November 25th (the day before Thanksgiving), we got the call that my Grandpa has passed away. I remember being in my bedroom with my then boyfriend (now husband) playing a card game - fitting that we were doing something I loved doing with my Grandpa on that particular evening. I heard the phone ring and for some reason I knew, I knew something was wrong. Minutes later my mom came to my door to tell me the news. I was heartbroken. There was a part of me that knew it was for the best - for him, for our family. But he was gone and that was rough.
It's been 18 years since we lost him. And there is not one single day that I don't think of him. I knew at a young age, that if I ever had a son, he would be named after my Grandpa. In 2004, my son was born, and his middle name is the that of my Grandpa (which also happens to be my Mom's middle name). My son will never truly understand the importance of his middle name, but he has been told and he carries the name proudly.
I take this Thanksgiving, as I do every Thanksgiving, and remember the man who was such a loving and caring man. I thank him for being a man that everyone was proud to call friend, Dad, Grandpa, Uncle, and Brother. And I thank God for making our family what it was and blessing us all with this wonderful man.
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