Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Poppy

This is something I wrote back on February 9th, 2008. I am reposting it here, without editing. Without reading it, in fact. I still miss him and regret that he never got a chance to see his great-grandchildren. He shaped me more than even I know and was the brightest part of my life before I met my husband. 

And I miss him.

My grandpa died. Late January. I could give the date and time as I was present and holding his hand when it happened. But I won't. That isn't the point of this. The point of this is to talk about his life.

Up until I got married he was the person I loved most in this world. I was always closer to my grandparents than my parents, but my grandpa and I had a special bond. I was his favorite and he was mine. It probably started because my mom and I lived with my grandparents for the first three years of my life. Until she got married.

Growing up I a bit of a tomboy. My grandpa taught me how to fish. As I got older I was allowed to do more until I was able to do it all myself. From baiting my hook to making sure they were ready for frying.

He was a perfectionist but I don't remember him ever being impatient with me. To this day he is the only person in my life that I have always been sure of. I never felt like I was judged and found wanting. To him I was perfect the way I was.

Although he was almost sixty years older than me I never thought of him as old. He was always active. In the spring he'd work in his garden, the summer he was out at the cabin taking care of whatever needed to be done out there. Then in the fall there were all the fallen leaves to rake into piles, at two locations, so that we grandchildren could jump in them. Of course the winter had snow activities from the pleasant, sledding, snow angels and igloo making, to the unpleasant, shoveling. He remained young until my grandma died in 1998.

In 1999 he had a stroke and had to move to Nevada from Wisconsin. It was the first of many that over the next ten years would slowly take away the grandpa I knew. One of the earliest things he lost was the ability to use a pen. This was a cruel blow for the man who had made a living as a commercial artist his entire life. He became increasingly frustrated with his inability to do things that once came so easily. Unable to work outside he spent most of his time watching television.

He was unable to return to his cabin on his own so twice I took him. One time spending five weeks there with him. I will always cherish that time. That was where he was happiest. At that time he was still able to putter around outside as long as someone was around to make sure he was alright.

Eventually he went into assisted living. But through it all, anytime I made it there to visit he had a huge smile for me. The people who worked at his various homes always knew who I was. They liked me to come visit because he was always happier when I was around. We'd go pick up coffee and sit at the park. Either on a bench or in the car, depending on how much strength he had. Even though he would get easily frustrated and upset, I never felt it was directed at me.

I packed for his funeral many times over the years. Something would happen and all the medical "experts" would agree that it was just a matter of weeks or days or hours. Once he was flown from the hospital in Elko to Reno. They Elko doctors couldn't help him and did not expect him to survive the flight. But when he got to Reno the doctors operated. They sawed open his skull, removed a gallon of blood caused by a slow leak over the previous month, and stapled him back together. He bounced back and eventually the only indication that he'd ever had surgery was a slight indent on his head that I only noticed when I cut his hair.

For the last few months of his life he was ready to die. He had already lived a year past when his bladder cancer was supposed to have killed him. He was unhappy with his quality of life. But even with his vascular dementia he never forgot who I was. I got to spend the last two days of his life with him. He wasn't able to talk but I held his hand when I was sitting next to him.

He was an amazing man. Everyone who met him remarked on it. While we sat waiting for the funeral home to pick up his body people came in the room to offer condolences. Every one said that they would miss him and his smile. Especially his smile. Most said they wished they could have known him before his decline. There is more to write but I'll probably not do it. There is not enough space and time to write everything. His death was not a shock to anyone, he was ready and he is in a better place, but it left a hole in me that cannot be filled. And I don't think I really want it filled.

John Frank Guzzetta May 1, 1919 – January 21, 2008

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