Sure I knew it could happen any minute, hour or day.
I thought, “Sure, I’ll just get through it. I’ve looked at death before. People have been dying since the beginning of the world, so this’ll be just like that.”
But who am I kidding?
Knowing that it’s coming just hangs over you like a teetering black cloud ready to pour down on you. For the past year now it’s been dripping. Black ink seeped into the back of my mind. I knew what was coming, or at least I thought I did.
Every phone call, every picture, every Facebook post gave me a twist in my stomach. I knew what was coming, just not when.
They thought he’d go, way back before I was born when he had some killer cancer.
Maybe it would have been easier, knowing I never knew him. Like the other two I never got to meet. Sure there’s still pain, somewhere in my mind, heart, and soul, but it’s not so deep – or maybe I just haven’t dug it up.
But now that soft whistle of “Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing” won’t filter through the dusty living room air. The slippered foot, too-big for shoes, won’t tap to the rhythm of my violin. He won’t be watering his tomato plants anymore or laying down the newspapers to keep the weeds away. He won’t spread white bread with mayonnaise for my iceberg lettuce and ham sandwiches anymore.
I won’t have a grandfather for father’s day. I’ll never have a grandfather again, because I’ve only known one.
The one that showed me how to find water with a stick.
The one who wrote newspaper articles, and would look at my stories to tell me what words I’d spelled wrong.
The one who told me “Eh, shut up, you!” with a laugh when he didn’t want to do physical therapy at the nursing home.
The one who went to war on a ship.
The one who knew Morris code like the back of his strong hand.
The one who lost a son last year to a brain tumor.
The one who jumped off his barn roof as a boy with an umbrella for a parachute.
The one who always asked me questions about what I was learning in school.
The one who so wanted to see me graduate, but at least he knew I had done it.
The one who caught a falling drinking glass with a lightning, ninja-quick arm, then shuffled past in suspenders and slippers.
The one who applauded me at the theatre.
The one who helped me catch my first fish.
The one who neatly folded the wrapping and tissue paper from his presents to use again someday, or never.
The one who took pictures with the floppy disk, digital camera.
The one who didn’t need a cane until last year – or was it the year before?
The one who shucked warm, boiled peanuts that he’d planted and picked.
The one whose clothes got taken on the boat, leaving him with a uniform far too small.
The one who remembered his 1st grade teacher’s name for a question on his iPhone.
The one who saw Frank Sinatra in New York.
The one who always beat me at checkers.
The one who cowered passing by the 4 story buildings watching to make sure King Kong wasn’t there.
The one who gave his life to God after gripping the pew hard, sweating, and putting up a fight.
The one who read me the old chicken book making all the gobbling noises.
The Grandpa I’ve known and still love.
James Johnson 1922-2015
In peace may you now dance.