Nine years ago yesterday, I flew Austin to Dallas to Cedar Rapids, racing against time, hoping to win a few moments to tell my grandpa how much I loved him before it was too late.
By the time I got there, it was too late by my mom’s estimation to go to the hospice center. I argued, but eventually relented to the promise of rising early and making the trek.
The next morning, as I got myself ready, I found a group of three stark white hairs at my crown; my first greys. Everything seemed to be taking too long. G’pa had a rough night, according to my eldest uncle. He had taken the night before’s vigil. Finally, it was time to go.
My mom and I got into the car to go collect my grandma. As we neared the gates of Meth-Wick, the call we’d been fearing came. G’pa has breathed his last. There would be no goodbyes from me to him breathing, and hearing me. My goodbyes would be to his body, soul already departed.
We collected G’ma, and my mom gently told her that he was gone. It was a tear filled ride. My mom apologized to me for not taking me the night before.
The time after that was a blur. I remember snippets, but that’s it. I stayed with G’ma the rest of the time that I was in Iowa. They played “On Eagle’s Wings” at his funeral service, and I cried thinking back to being little and going to church with he and G’ma. Whenever that hymn was in the program, he’d be so happy, and tell me that it was his favorite. The night before I returned to Texas, I went out with one of my oldest friends, proceeding to get drunker than a skunk on Bud Light, because that was what he’d have periodically through the summer, after a long and hot day in the garden, with his bees, or, more like than not, both.
I flew back with a hangover, which is horrible. My step-dad gassed up my Jeep and I drove back to Killeen. I was numb. X was waiting, mowing my lawn with one of those old school, motorless mowers. He did what he could to cheer me up.
By the time that June was half through, an expected guest failed to arrive. By the time we found out why, I learned that within the week that I’d returned to Texas, I’d gotten pregnant.
Flash forward nine years. Uncle Carl passed about ten months after G’pa. I gave birth to Ryli in San Antonio during his memorial service.
The comical thing about Ryli… she is stubborn as me, a trait that was inherited by me from G’ma and G’pa. She has the curls that G’ma always wanted, but had to get perms to acquire; Ryli also inherited a forehead that is a nearly exact replica of hers. Ryli loves to garden, and has a temper slow to ignite but pretty damn scary when it does, like G’pa. Ryli just has a litany of characteristics that she inherited through me from them.
He’s been gone for nine long years, and I still miss him to this day. Sometimes, when I’m feeling nostalgic and sappy, I imagine him “special ordering” Ryli at the stork’s shop. But I have Grandma’s memory; I can’t forget, but the reminders help me deal.
I still love you, Grandpa.