stories about memories

the final toast

i remember when i was little, well not little i was 12, and i read a story in highlights about this woman and how she dealt with her grandfather’s death when she was young. she said she wrote down everything she remembered about him before she had a chance to forget.
i’d pushed it to the back of my mind for the past two months, but then the nightmares came back. so i figured, maybe i should make a list too, so i can sleep again.

1. he made the best spaghetti anyone ever tasted. actually, scratch that, he made the best FOOD. he could cook anything. my mom always promised me she’d give me his spaghetti recipe on my wedding day. but like most old people, he never measured anything. so looks like no one gets to make it anymore.

2. he taught all of us to play poker once we turned 6ish, and he was always picky about us touching the cards when he was dealing. i never really liked the game much, but i played anyways because he loved it so much. it always made me mad when he’d make us turn off the tv and come play with him, and the older i got the more i started saying no i didn’t want to. if i could go back now i would have played every single chance i got, just to spend more time with him.

3. he never knew a stranger; he’d talk to random people in restaurants all the time. it used to embarrass me when i was younger, but eventually i figured they were strangers we didn’t know and would never see again, so it was ok. it made him happy.

4. he always told me i was his prettiest granddaughter, the older i got the more i realized he probably said it to all of his granddaughters, but it still never failed to make me feel good.

5. he loved chinese food.

6. he was a hardcore fan of the yankees and the redskins, both the teams i hated most.

7. he loved watching me dance. he only ever saw it on video, but he always told me how great i was. when i quit, the only thing that made me reconsider was that i knew he’d be disappointed. but i did anyway.

8. i loved seeing him smile.

9. everything i did, he’d always say he was proud of me for it. and it felt so good to know that at least one person thought so. violin, gymnastics, softball, dance, going to college. i could do no wrong. he loved when i would just sit and talk to him, any mundane detail of my life fascinated him.

10. he spoiled us like crazy. even when i was old enough to know that they didn’t have much money and i shouldn’t take advantage of it, he loved doing stuff for us, so we felt bad saying we didn’t want anything.

11. he loved christmas music. he started playing it in august and played it until february, because he had so much to go through.

12. he used to make things out of wood and paint them. for each of us when we were little, he carved us little ornaments for our christmas tree. it’s a stocking with santa’s head sticking out, and our names painted on it. and he made that scissors rack in our kitchen that everybody always comments on. he got too old to do it after a while(i don’t think matthew has any ornaments, he was born too late).

13. fishing was his favorite thing to do. i vaguely remember the one time we went with him and my grandma(we being me, daniel and susan, we were that young). all i remember was me sitting on the boat playing with this little yellow thing that was supposed to measure something in the water. i don’t know if i ever got to try to catch a fish, or if we ate any. but when i was about 5 he called me and asked what my favorite kind of fish was, and i said shrimp, so he said he would catch me some. he never did, and i remembered it too. but i don’t remember being mad about it.

14. i remember when he started getting older, first getting a cane, then a walker, then finally the wheelchair. the first time they found the cancer, the first time he had a stroke, the first time he got pneumonia. and i remember the first time i realized that he wouldn’t last forever. that someday he’d be gone. but i pushed the thought away, deciding it’d still be a long time before that happened.

15. about a year ago i think it was, we were up in virginia visiting them, and we’d gone to my aunt’s house for the day. i think my grandma came with us and we left him alone, but i’m not positive. but we came home that night, and there were ambulances outside their apartment building. i didn’t think anything of it until we got upstairs, and there were all these doctors in their bedroom. they said he was mumbling and they couldn’t understand him, so they took him to the hospital. my grandma was calling people and asking them to pray for him, and it was the first time i ever saw her cry. and i realized that i’d forgotten to tell him goodbye that morning. i was so scared, and finally that night they brought him home and he was ok.

16. he would always bounce back from anything. it was like he was invincible. i don’t know how many times he said he wanted to start planning his funeral. and my mom would always tell me it would be ok and i didn’t have to worry. so right before camp when i found out he had pneumonia and was in hospice care, i thought nothing of it. but the third day of orientation we had a speaker come who was a hospice chaplain, and she said that people get put into hospice when they have six months or fewer to live. and it hit me. it was going to happen soon. no had told me this.

17. two months later we went to visit them. i walked in, and my mouth dropped. he was lying in what looked like a hospital bed, hooked up to a ton of machines. that whole week it seemed like all he could do was cough. a few days after we got there, one of the doctors came to check on him, and i heard them take my grandma into the hall. they said ”ok, it’s not happening tonight, but it could be any day.” grandma’s confused, and doesn’t know what they mean. i picked up on it right away. and i had to leave. so me and scott walked to 7 eleven and i concentrated on the delicousness of my apple mango slurpee, and not on the fact that any day, we could lose him.

18. the next day i made myself go into the room. and i sat down with him and just talked to him for a long while, hanging on every word. he told me how great it was that i was going to college in a week and how i was gonna do so well and make him proud, and when i started my boyfriend hunting, i had to bring the guy up to meet him before i could do anything else. i laughed, but i’m sure he meant it. and now that i remember, i don’t think he coughed even once during our whole conversation. like God was trying to give me a good memory in case it was my last. that night he felt good enough to get out of bed for a while, and we all sat and played poker like the old days, and i didn’t complain a bit.

19. leaving the next day i was so scared that i’d never see him again, and it was so hard not to cry, but i didn’t let myself.

20. while i was bored and homesick and lonely the next three weeks, i thought about calling him because i knew he’d like hearing how i was doing, but i never did. and i wish i had, because on the 15th of september, i woke up and my mom called. she said she had to tell me something. i didn’t let her say anything else; we’d agreed if she said those exact words then that meant it had happened. telling all my teachers why i’d be out of class for a week was torture. everyone had a different reaction. i still don’t like my music appre teacher much because of it.

21. when we got there i didn’t let myself cry, ever, the whole time we were there. i tried to concentrate on the fact that i was finally with scott instead. but finally grandma asked me to bring her something from her bedroom, the one place i didn’t want to go. but i went in, and fought hard not to look at the place where the bed had been taken away. even at the funeral, i just tried to numb myself. and now until today, i hadn’t cried about it.

22. he was one of my favorite people in the world, and i miss him so much. i wish he’d at least lived to be 90.

the day he died, hawk nelson released their new album. this is the last song on it, and i thought it related to what happened. you can listen to it here:

Warwickshire to Fraserville and all between
You have left us here a life of memories
You forever changed the lives of all of us who have known you

Truth be told, this world feels cold without you
You gave all of us a better name.

So here’s the final toast we raise to you, dear friend
Good times will never be the same, and our thoughts still remain
We’ll hold you in our hearts, forever and a day
And we’ll never be the same
So the last toast that we raise goes to you

So if you ever lost someone that’s close to you
Waiting for the answers like the spring to bloom
I hope their tears are wiped away
When they’re at the pearly gates praying for you

You have made this world a better place…

So here’s the final toast we raise to you, dear friend
Good times will never be the same, and our thoughts still remain
We’ll hold you in our hearts, forever and a day
And we’ll never be the same
So the last toast that we raise goes to you.

and this one line, even though the whole song is about the lead singer losing his grandma, the chorus is scarily accurate.

but i still miss you, all the times we had together, i always prayed you’d get well soon
but i still miss you, and i know jesus has the answer, and he’s way bigger than the cancer in you.