February 14th 2012 was the last time I spoke to my grandpa.
It was the last time we exchanged I love you’s.
I remember sitting with him, my family was all around, I told him about a tattoo of a rose I had recently gotten on my hip. I talked with him disregarding the fact that he was unable to respond. My grandpa was on his death bed, it was clear. It stings my eyes today to think
back to that day. To see his body, knowing his soul had begun to transcend into the universe exploring the vast mystery of space. I had 50 days clean that day, something my grandpa and I shared. He too was in recovery. He died with 22 years sober. I remember telling him “Grandpa I have to go, I have to head to a meeting, I love you.” His eyes opened, and he spoke for the first time that day. He said “I love you too” and nodded his head in aggreement with my plans. I hugged and kissed him.
I was woken up in the middle of the night with my Mom on the phone. She did not even have to say a word, I knew. The universe opened its arms, and gathered the soul of a man I will always look up to. His spirit began a new journey that night, spiraling out into the wonders of the stars.
My Grandpa and I were not always extremely close. But I have the fondest memories of sharing Christmas at his house. Him and Joan always had stockings for us grandkids to open, a family game for us to play, and we always received a special ornament. I collected mine over the years and cherish them each year its time to put them on the tree.
I believe in the last few years of his life we began to form an undefinable connection. I was in the midst of my addiction, destroying my life. I am sure he knew exactly what was going on as he had once been where I was. The substance may have been different- but the disease is the same. I was lucky enough to never see my grandpa drink a drop of alcohol or smoke a cigarette. Yet Lung Cancer is what took his life.
Unfortunately I missed out on his last holiday season with us because I could not put the drugs down. That being said, this is one of the reasons my clean date is December 25th, 2011. I could not bare to miss out on the end of his life. I knew I would regret it forever, and the drugs no longer numbed the pain.
My grandpa was a professor at The Evergreen State College in Washington State, a history professor. He was also a founding father of the school. He inspired me to go back to school. He inspired me to learn, to always remain teachable. He taught me to be curious about life and the world. On his last days he told me to go to libraries. “Read books” he would say. His words were incredibly wise. He was an avid storyteller that would capture your ears, I could listen to his stories for hours.
In his earlier years he traveled to Australia and toured the country in a Blue-Grass band.
He was a self taught musician demonstrating that you can do anything you put your mind to. He played the acustic guitar and base guitar. I always remember his giant base guitar on the stand in his living room. The morning of his passing his band mates came to the house. They had one last jam session with him. He had played a bit in the last few years of his life, I remember at some gatherings he would show case his work.
His music and knowledge combined were powerful. I believe I am fortunate to have known the best parts of him. I knew he would be proud when I enrolled into college, I felt him with me as I struggled to not give up when it got hard. I even reached out and spoke to his spirit often as I made the decision to put school on hold and travel to Asia.
He had a passion for knowledge accompanied by a passion to share his knowledge. He knew when to speak his wisdom, and when to allow the lesson of life to take place. His legacy lives on amongst his 6 children, and many grandchildren. We all have a piece of him in our hearts.
I like to picture him flying through space, from one galaxy to the next. Exploring each universe with his glasses sitting at his nose and his fluffy gray hair full of wisdom. The stars sparkling and shooting in the background has he explores the depths of the unknown. Feeding his lust for exploration and discovery, his spirit joining mine as I walk the path of self discovery.
Valentines day may be a halmark holiday.
To some its a day of expectations and let downs.
To others it’s just another day.
To me its a day to never forget that last time Grandpa and I said “I Love You.”