Five years. It has been five years since we lost Paw Paw, and yet, I still have trouble believing it. They say that time heals all wounds, but for me, the unexpected loss of my grandpa still feels like a fresh gash across my heart. It hurts as much today as it did that day five years ago, and I still have trouble believing that there is a world without him in it.
Arguably, I should have seen it coming. When I saw Paw Paw at Christmas, he did not look well. He was slumped over in his favorite chair, and when we left, he felt strangely frail when I hugged him goodbye. In fact, I was so unnerved by that hug that I had a terrifying premonition that he might not be with us much longer. I was so upset by it that I had a silent cry in the backseat of the car, while my parents chatted in the front, unaware. I’ve never told anyone that.
A little over a week later, we got the call that he was being rushed to the hospital. Mom started frantically getting her things in order to leave and be with him, but before she could make it out the door we got another call. He was already gone.
The following week was a blur, marked by shock and overriding grief. What stands out to me was the disbelief in Grandma’s voice, as she told the story of his death over and over, to everyone who had not yet heard it, as if the act of repetition would somehow make it easier to wrap her head around the loss. It never got easier to hear.
Paw Paw was the first person I have lost in my life, with whom I was close. My uncle, Doug, passed away when I was very young, and did not understand the nature of death. My great-grandmother, Big Nana, and two of my great-uncles had passed away when I was in high school, but I did not feel their loss as acutely as I did with Paw Paw. My bond with him was much stronger.
What I remember most about Paw Paw, was how loved he made me feel. With so many other grandchildren, it would have been easy to get lost in the fray, but Paw Paw always made me feel special. Whether it was the little songs he would sing to me; the trips we would take to Dairy Queen, just the two of us; the little projects he would create for me out in his woodshop in the garage; or the way he would call me on my birthday and sing me “Happy Birthday,” and I would sing “Happy Half-Birthday” to him and vice-versa, he always made me feel like he was making a special effort, just for me. They were all simple things, but they were so important.
Maybe five years is not enough.
I know that much of my family is out there reading this, so now I’m turning things over to you. What is your favorite memory of Paw Paw?
My cousins Trista, Danielle, me, and Aimee with Paw Paw visiting New Salem.