Papa

I would like to try and keep my blog focused solely on home improvement. The whole 5 entries I have so far. But sometimes, the mood strikes me and I have to write of what I feel. I have already written about my grandfather, my father’s father, his death most recent in my mind. However, the first time I ever really remember having to deal with death happened when I was 18 years old.

When I was 3 my aunt/moms sister/my godmother passed away from a brain aneurysm. She died the day after Christmas 1989. She was 21 years old. About 3 months later my uncle, my dad’s brother in law, passed away on the operating table during open heart surgery. Or so I’m told. As tragic these events were, I was not old enough to remember them. When my Papa died, I remember that day like yesterday.

It was November of 2004 when my Papa became ill. As long as I had known him he had never been the most healthy person, having had to have surgery on both of his knees multiple times, but he was never not okay. At this time I honestly can’t remember how he came to be in the hospital. All I know is suddenly things had changed. He had pneumonia, broken ribs and lung cancer, among other things I’m sure.

Most of the events leading up to his death are hazy. Some I still remember very clearly though. I remember the night my mother called my dad’s house to tell us he didn’t have long to live. I was watching the State of the Union address on TV when the phone rang. I picked up and I heard my mom breathe in sharply before speaking, clearly hoping my father would’ve answered. She told me that Papa had 6 months to a year left to live. And I cried. He was dead less than a month later.

The rest of November and most of December was spent in limbo. Phone calls from Grandy saying “this was it, get down here”. Rushing to the hospital or the assisted living home he was at. Stressful and devastating.

Christmas morning 2004. I woke up and opened gifts with my dad and my brother. I remember feeling content just sitting on the couch watching Christmas movies when my dad suggested I get up and shower so we could get over to my mom’s. I remember thinking how odd it was for him to be rushing us. After I had gotten ready for the day, I watched my father look out our kitchen window, continuously asking me if I had had a good Christmas.

“It’s not over yet,” I laughed.

But it was.

I watched my mother’s car pull into our driveway. This wasn’t right. I was going to drive Joseph and myself to her house.

And then my heart sank. And I knew.

“Papa died, didn’t he?” I asked.

“Why don’t you go answer the door” my father said, still staring out the window.

I opened the door before she could knock.

“Papa died, didn’t he?” I repeated.

“Yes, I’m so sorry.” And then I burst into tears.

My brother came walking into the living room then. He greeted our mother, his voice indicating he knew nothing of what was to come.

And then mom told him.

The sound of his sobs still haunt me.

He had died around 6pm Christmas Eve. My father’s cell phone had been off as we had celebrated Christmas with his girlfriend and then later went to midnight mass at our church. That was the last time I ever went to church on purpose.

Death is a funny thing. It’s the circle of life. You are born, you grow up, get married, have kids, they have kids and you die. Or so the dream goes. And yet, as I’ve mentioned before, the death of both of my grandfather’s have done nothing but left me empty. And more so in my Papa’s case, angry.

He was 65 years old. Sixty. Five.

I can’t help but laugh a little as I think of that Kenny Chesney song.

“Now only the good die young, stops me in my tracks.”

Maybe it’s true. Maybe only the good die young.

I was about 7 years old when Papa was watching us one time and we were watching a movie. A funeral was happening and he turned to us and said “I don’t want you to cry like that when I die.” And I laughed thinking he would never die. Stupid, innocent, naive girl.

There were a lot of things he taught me, a lot of things he said that still stick in my mind. Like when I sang M I C K E Y M O U S E and he would say Donald Duck in that funny voice he had. His crazy tangents when he would introduce himself as “Mary Lay the lesbian” (his name was Larry May). How he would put his big warm hands over mine to warm them and say “Cold hands, warm heart.” But, as I said at his funeral, his hands were always there to warm mine, but he had the warmest heart of anyone.

The death of my grandfather’s – that’s where my demons hide.

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Papa with the best catch of his life! Me! Ho River, Forks, WA.

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Papa and all his grand kids.

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Papa and my brother fishing at the Ho River in Forks, WA.

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Papa and his truck.

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