fly away

Originally published on To S and From S.

Dear Shari,

I hope you are feeling better by now. It’s no fun being sick — but hey, at least it’s winter, right?

I’m enjoying these letters so much, but I’ll admit I got a little stuck writing this letter. Because we lost Grandpa two nights ago.

There’s so much I want to tell you. Not only about these last days but about a man’s entire lifetime. 94 1/2 years of lifetime. 94 years, can you imagine? He once was a boy with a twin sister and six older siblings. He married his high school sweetheart, joined the Air Force, became a colonel, served in two wars. He navigated planes by the stars. The husband. The father of four. The grandfather, the great grandfather, the great great grandfather. He was a good man. Always teared up when he talked about his family. Loved birding and passed that joy down to my mom and me. And never did you see such a fine head of white hair than on Grandpa. In these last months, I took every opportunity to run my hands through it. He never seemed to mind and trust me, he told you when he did mind.

Version 2

My emotions are swirling and complex, especially after the past years, months, days when I felt closer than ever to Grandpa — while questioning how that could be since the dementia surely got in the way. But today I’m reconciling that web of perplexing questions to honor what I know in my heart. It doesn’t matter if all those hours and moments we spent together never became new memories for him. We got to walk, talk, sit, and be in the present together. It doesn’t matter if those times weren’t always easy or happy. What matters is I got to show up. I got to be by his side, even on bad days. I got lots of little stories I can hold dear (and so did my boys). I got to love and try my best. I got to kiss his head and tell him I loved him every single time. I got to say goodbye one last time. And I got to feel all of it.

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We celebrated my birthday at the birdplace in 2008. I was so excited to take Grandpa there (here with baby Leo).

 

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