On Thursday, January 18th, my Mom phoned me to tell me my Grandpa had passed away. We all knew it was coming. He had been painfully wasting away in hospice and littered with cancer. I was so relieved to hear his pain had ended and at the same time, so lost and sad knowing I wouldn’t be seeing him again.
My Mom was a single mother so my Grandpa was the closest thing I had to a father figure. He was always my rock. He towered over me at over 6′ tall and was broad shouldered and strong. For as far back as I can remember, he always greeted me with the same line, “Don’t I know you?”, followed by a big hug. I can still hear him say it clear as day in my memories. He loved ice cream and my fondest memories from my childhood were those times I would stay over at their house and we’d either make a run to Tops for some Perry’s Ice Cream (usually Neapolitan) or go to Dee’s Dee’s Dairy if they were open and I’d get myself a GIANT cone of Mint Ting-a-ling. Seriously giant! No child should ever eat that much ice cream, but ahhh…I loved it.
Anyone who knows me knows I’m obsessed with two things: technology and bikes. My Grandparents bought me my first and second bike. The first one I only know about because I’ve seen a picture of it – a red tricycle. The second one when we had just moved from Phoenix, AZ to Niagara Falls, NY and were living in this 3-bedroom apartment above a key shop on Cayuga Drive. I think it was my 7th birthday and my grandparents were hanging out in the dining room and my grandma told me she left her purse in the entrance hallway and asked me to fetch it for her. So I walk to the hallway and there was this beautiful banana seat bicycle just hanging out in the hallway and right next to it, on the floor, is grandma’s purse. So I grab the purse and bring it back to her. She looked at me stunned and asked me if I saw what was in the hallway and I said, “yeah…a bike”, and she said, “it’s YOUR bike!” I almost fell over. There began my long relationship with my bikes. The ultimate freedom. I spent every allowed moment on that bike, exploring my new hometown.
I moved to Carson City, NV when I was 19 and when I returned a few years later, it was my Grandpa who helped get me a car. My Grandpa owned a used car lot so he helped me out on the cheap and sold me a Buick for $200. Ugliest car ever! I still laugh when I remember it. This car had one of those faux cloth top roofs that had been popular at some point, but the cloth was torn all over. I named the car Buzzer because when it was moving the air would fill the tears on the roof and the car literally looked like it had a buzz cut. All that aside, this car ran beautifully. Purred like a kitten and super reliable. I think I had it for all of about 6 months before I sold it to a coworker for $100 and bought a used 1987 Honda CRX for $250. Car had a lot of rust, but I had always wanted a red CRX so I looked past all that and bought it anyway. About 3 months later I found out it was rusted out so badly that the frame was no longer attached to the undercarriage! I would turn the wheel and a second or two later the rest of the car would catch up! It was a bizarre feeling. The car was trash and my Grandpa had to come to the rescue, again. This time he got me a 1993 Ford Mustang Coupe for $500. This car was in MINT condition. Red on the outside, red on the inside. I loved that car! When he handed me the keys he smiled and made a comment about how he’d hoped I learned my lesson.
So by now you’ve figured out that I was prone to making stupid decisions in my twenties, but none of that mattered, my Grandpa had my back. I always felt a sense of security knowing that no matter where my life took me or how bad I had messed up, I would always have someone to turn to. When I came out as a lesbian this super conservative man didn’t even blink. He told me he just wanted me to be happy. He gave great advice and warm bear hugs. He was one of the gentlest men I ever knew, and also the most stubborn. He taught me how important it was to be able to take care of myself and do for myself, and to take pride in knowing I worked hard and earned everything I had. He meant the world to me and I’m really gonna miss him.