A few weeks ago, I was sucker punched by grief. I opened up Facebook to see a beautiful photo of my sister and my grandpa. It brought all the memories flooding back. I realized that I did not get a chance to properly grieve for my grandpa.
When he passed away last June, I had been recently diagnosed with postpartum depression and postpartum anxiety. I was not willing to share with my extended family the details of my struggles. I put on my mask, and I pretended like everything was fine. I sang for my grandpa’s funeral with my sister and my aunt. I still continued to wear that mask. As the oldest of the grandchildren, I felt a responsibility to hold it together for the sake of my dad, my mom, my sister and my cousins. I thought that I needed to be strong for everyone. I was afraid to give into the grief. I thought that I would just fall apart and come undone by all of my emotions.
The bittersweet part of his death was that he was my lone remaining grandparent. My paternal grandpa lived a long, full life of 93 years. He was survived by seven children, nineteen grandchildren and ten great-grandchildren. He was preceded in death by his wife, his daughter, and his grandson who was my baby brother. He left behind a wonderful legacy of love and faith. He cherished his family, and he passed along his three passions in life to his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren – singing, hunting and fishing. Grandpa taught me how to deer hunt and fish along with my dad. His cabin in the woods near the Wisconsin Dells area was my favorite place.
When I was devastated by the sudden loss of a dear friend thirteen years ago, I went to the cabin for a few days to get away. It was just Grandpa and I. We didn’t talk a whole lot about what happened. I didn’t need to. Just knowing that he was there made me feel safe and secure. Grandpa fussed over me like I was a child instead of an adult. He advised me to wear long pants while we were fishing. I startled him at first by taking off my t-shirt to reveal my swimsuit beneath. We fished a lot that weekend, and I made him dinner. I let him grill the steaks that I had marinated, and he told me to cook the potatoes. I had brought baked potatoes, but he insisted that we eat hash browns instead. I returned home from that trip, refreshed and grounded by my time with my grandpa. I cherished that trip and the closeness that I shared with my grandpa.
My favorite memory of my grandpa was when he was talking about the love of his life, my grandma. My husband proposed to me on the top of my grandpa’s bluff. After we returned to the cabin and announced the news of our engagement, my grandpa talked to my husband and I for an hour about his life with my grandma. I had never heard him talk that openly about their marriage. His advice was “Even when you want to tell the other person to go to hell, give them a kiss good night. Don’t go to bed angry.” He told us that marriage was hard work, but that he had a wonderful marriage and a good life with my grandma. His hope for my husband and I was that we too would have a wonderful marriage and a good life.
Grandpa was very positive even as he faced his own mortality. Whenever you would ask him how he was doing, he would reply, “Dandy, dandy fine”. The other expression he would always use is “God willing and the crick don’t rise”. This spoke to me of hope that tomorrow would be a new day. I love you, and I miss you, Grandpa.