I’ve put off mentioning it. One becuase I hate adding more sadness than necessary to my already dark blog. Two, because I (still) don’t know how to react to it all.

Three weeks ago, I lost someone very special to me. A man who basically raised me. Taught me how engines worked, taught me the value of hard work, speaking when necessary, living happy, and doing what you should and what you wanted to.

My grandfather.

Back in July, I finally managed to make it back East to see him for the first time in 4 years. He didn’t look well. He was in a nursing home. He mumbled and spent most of his time picking at the same tooth with the same wadded tissue. Every piece of me inside broke apart. But I kept a solid face and an unbending smile…for him. And grandma.

He had dementia. Most days he didn’t even know his wife of 50 years. The day I showed up, I asked him who I was. He knew! I about lost it, even through my thick outer shell.

Over the next week, I saw him at his worst. He won’t talk to me. Didn’t know who I was, and barely held himself up.

At the end of that week, I said good-bye to him one last time. I didn’t tell him I wouldn’t be back for a long time. I couldn’t. Each day I said good-bye, he shook my hand (on the days he could). That last day, he refused to let go of my hand.

At first, I thought he was having a bad day. But then I noticed the look in his eyes. It was not one of emptiness or knowledge of my leaving. It was something else. I couldn’t put my finger on it until this week.

He knew.

He knew that a week later he’d be dead. He knew it. And though he couldn’t speak to anyone anymore, not really, he held my hand tight, pulled me close and stared at me. He was trying with all his might to tell me good-bye. I managed a nod to him and nothing more. That’s when he let go of my hand. The same handshake he gave me 15 years before, when I left my hometown.

May the Lord be with you and keep you save, Grandpa.

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