I started typing this over a year ago, right after the loss of my grandfather. I could not even form whole sentences, find words or describe the emotions swirling around in my head ad heart.
When you lose someone so integral to your very existence, how do you process? Those stages of grief do not even scratch the surface. I know for a fact I did not experience them in any rational order. Without getting too deep into the stages one by one, I’ll just say I am still going through them one by one. It seems I am cycling through them faster. I’ll be happy at the glance of a picture of Pop and in the very next moment, sad that There will be no more of them. Then back to happy as I am grateful to have had the moments to cherish. Again, to mad at the thought of him not meeting his great-great grandchildren.
Just typing those thoughts is evoking an overwhelming sense of sadness. Yet this time I am not paralyzed by my grief and deafening silence of this ever present figure. He was and still is a part of my conscience.
My grandfather, by birth, was truly the grandest father I have ever met. He loved his family and children in an unconditional way that made you want to do better and try harder.
We all continue to strive to do the right thing and more importantly take care of each other because that is what Pop would wanted.
When Pop was first diagnosed with cancer, he was digging in for a fight. literally, the fight of his life. He was a feisty crazy little man (spunky). He rarely walked away from confrontation. He though it best to “nip it in the bud”.
Even though we all are smart, we ignored the statistics. If they say 1 out 10,000 survive, then we were foolishly thinking that our Pop was going to be that 1. He really was a larger than life figure that always seemed to beat the odds. So, why not now…
While I don’t have the answer to that question, I do know that my life is fractured into a few chapters. We’ll just call this chapter Life After: The New Normal.
I lived with or near my grandparents my entire life. So for almost four decades, there was Pop. We had traditions.
Now what? As I see my entire family splinter apart and fracture, I still don’t know. Only this time the person that would be able to fix it has transitioned onto a higher plane. He has left us to tend it these problems ourselves.
In one year, I lost my grand father, my 11-year-old dog and got evicted from an apartment I live in for 18 years! My new normal was traumatic, scary and still defining who I will be for a long time.
My new normal is filled trying to honor the spirit my Grand Father embodied. Passing on the lessons he taught me, to not just my sons, but to all I encounter. Symbolize the integrity and confidence he lived. The truth he always championed, even when it was hard. To Pop, right was right and wrong was wrong.
My new normal has flickers of light and hope. Now, the things and experiences I know he would have been proud to witness bring me an unbridled joy. I still feel the love and pride, as if I could hear him saying “ya did good kid” every time.
Again, as the tears begin to stream down my face as I think about him, they are bittersweet. Bitter because no new memories. He is gone and that is final. Sweet because he is not in pain anymore. This strong, rugged man no longer has to suffer the humility of us caring for him. He hated every moment of it (and he let us know too. He caught my uncle with a jam to the mouth to prove it). Also, sweet because I have four decades of memories, experiences, photos and videos to comfort me. My sons knew him, not just of him. That in and of itself gives me joy.
I’ll share more about Pop later. He really was a renaissance man (He went back to school late in life-before it was cool. He started a whole new career). He was pretty funny too…for example, I wanted to buy a fake (artificial) Christmas tree. It is a cost saver and they look just like the real ones. Plus you can buy the pine fragrance. So it’ll be more authentic. I tell Pop my plans. He looks at me and with a confused expression says, “Girl are you crazy? You’re going to buy a fake plastic tree and then spray it with fake pine scent? That’s the craziest thing I’ve ever heard! What’s next? You buy a toy burger spray it O-day-burger and eat it??” After I thought about it, he was right. To this day I have never bought a fake tree (or a fake burger). The real ones just smell so much better.
My new normal will be full of great memories, as many as I can fit into the years I have left on this earth. In this new leg of my journey, I often ask myself WWJD (what would James do)?