October 21, 2010

What Will I Leave Behind?

By andrewiverson

It’s been awhile since I’ve blogged about anything worth while.  It’s not that there hasn’t been anything going on, there’s always something going on.  It’s more like I’ve been so busy and tired that I just haven’t had the strength to sit down for a few and spew out everything that is on my mind.

It’s funny how inspiration can come on you in the strangest situations or worst time.  Probably why musicians walk around with recorders to catch a tune or couple of notes that came to mind out of the blue and don’t want to forget it.    It’s not as easy to pop out a laptop while walking through Safeway and quickly capture a feeling or moment because something happened that stirred things up.  You  have to wait until that moment is right so that what you write has the most impact and emotion behind it.  You want the reader to feel what your feeling and capture the moment like you have, if possible.   That’s what can be special about blogging and keeping these memories.  They are emotions captured in time and if captured just right…  can be powerful.

So, I guess that brings me to what’s been on my mind lately…

Just recently I found out my friend’s grandfather is close to passing away.  He’s been telling me how he’s been making it a point to be with him as much as possible before he passes.  You can tell he’s deeply hurting right now knowing the fact that a man he looks up to is about to pass away and there’s nothing he can do about it.   He has a new baby girl that will be born in December and his hope was to have his grandfather dedicate her but it doesn’t sound like he might make it that long.  It’s heartbreaking to think that their little girl is so close to being born and yet at the same time so close to losing someone of as much importance.  What a bittersweet situation to be in.   I won’t pretend to understand the emotions involved but I do know what it’s like to lose a grandfather that meant the world to me.

Both of my grandfathers passed away around 15 or so years ago.  Both of them I happen to be there when they passed.   One of my grandfather’s passed away in the hospital peacefully and my other grandfather passed at his home not so peacefully.   Probably like most people out there you tend to be closer to one grandparent or two more than the other.  In this case, I was.   I looked up to the man that passed away at his home rather abruptly without warning.   At the time, I didn’t have kids, I wasn’t even married.  I was a selfish, teenage kid that thought I was bullet proof and caught up in my own world.

I’ll admit, I didn’t visit my grandfather as much as I liked.  I was so involved with my life and what was happening in the world around me that I just didn’t visit much.  Although, when I did see him it was like I had just been there the day before.  There was just something about him that clicked.  Not sure how to explain it other than I knew he loved me.   To have another fatherly figure in your life that isn’t your actual dad and shows you that type of love is something to hold on too, learn from and cherish.  Did I do all of this while he was alive?  No.  No, looking back, I didn’t.

Since I was so bad at keeping in touch, I bought my grandfather a journal several months before he passed away.  Every page in this journal had a question about life, family, etc.  Everyday he would need to answer a question.  In the end, the journal would tell his life story and explain who he is.  A journal that would be read by the generations to come.  I couldn’t wait to read it one day….

I remember the day like it was yesterday.  I was driving home from work and my brother was in the car with me.   We had just pulled out of my job, which happened to be where my parents worked.  As I was coming around the corner a car flew up next to me with a woman hanging out the window yelling at me, actually screaming at me.   It was my mom and my dad was driving the car.  There is really nothing that prepares you to how your supposed to react when you see your mom hanging out a window screaming at the top of her lungs in the middle of a road.  I turned and looked at my brother and both had the look on our face like “What the….” As soon as I cracked my window it was like someone had taken out the ear plugs and all my brother and I heard was…

“HE’S DEAD!, HE’S DEAD!”

“GRANDPA IS DEAD!”

“GET OVER TO HIS HOUSE, HE’S STILL THERE”

They flew off and left my brother and I sitting there to soak it all in.   It was crazy.  There’s no way.  Not the man who has had 6 heart attacks and just keeps fighting another day.  Not the man who wouldn’t quit and just kept going.  I literally had just gone golfing with him the week before.  GOLFING!  He was over 80 years old and he took me golfing for my birthday.  HE BEAT ME!   There’s no way he’s dead.  I turned and looked at my brother.  I remember saying…

“No way, no way, no way…..”

We both started crying at the thought that it could very well be true.  That was one of the longest drives I’ve ever taken.  It was only 15 minutes away but felt like I had circled the world.   Pulling up to his house the paramedics were already there along with my parents and a few other family members.  We got out of the car and walked in the front door.  I had no idea what to expect.  I made my way through the house and walked into his family room, he was laying on his back in the middle of the room covered with a sheet.   I walked over and sat on the couch with my feet literally right next to my grandfather.  I was in shock.  I just looked around the room trying to soak it all in.   Looking at his favorite chair (love seat) I noticed that it was wet.  Turned out that he had a heart attack on his chair.   I couldn’t handle it any longer and had to get some air, so I went into the backyard.   The only thing I could think of doing was water his garden which I know he would have done that morning. I ended up staying out there until he was taken away.  I just couldn’t handle it.

After a long, emotional day, I was able to obtain the journal that I gave him several months earlier.  I was thrilled to think that I had just given the journal  to my grandpa several months earlier and I could very well have a journal that would document his life.  I couldn’t wait to read it.  I opened up the journal and to my surprise, he had only filled out a few pages.   I kept flipping through the book thinking that maybe he skipped around.  Nothing.  He had only filled out a few pages.  I had nothing to pass along, nothing to read or learn about the man I wish could have lived forever.

I would have loved to have read it to my boys or put it into an actual book to distribute to the family.  What we have to remember him by is our own memories and photos.  When I talk to my friend and he tells me he had the opportunity to gather with the family to visit his grandpa at the hospital and hear the stories and about his life, it makes me think about what I missed out on.  It makes me think about what I want to do for my own family and what I want to leave behind for my kids.  What exactly am I going to leave behind.  What matters the most?  What do I miss the most from my grandfather?

Quite honestly…  I’d love to hear him say “Hey Andy!” with the charisma that he oozed when he saw me.   I could hear the love in his voice and the way he was when he was around me.  SO does it boil down to the fact that what I remember the most is the attention he gave me?  Or the acknowledgment of my achievements in golf and how proud he was?

What exactly did he show me while he was alive that a journal couldn’t have taught me.  Maybe what he ended up showing me and leaving behind was a lasting impression on me of a man who saw right through the hard shell, the troubles and issues and he saw gold.  He saw the good in me.  Even when I would write him letters and apologize for not spending more time with him or telling him of my troubles.  He looked past all of that and loved me anyway.  That did more than a journal.  That quite honestly has helped me to this day with how I treat my own sons and what lasting impression I want to leave behind with them.

What I didn’t mention is that my grandfather didn’t leave behind the journal on purpose.  It turns out that two weeks before he passed away, he felt like God was telling him it was almost time to go.  He went into his garage, shut the door and pressed record on his tape recorder.  For two hours he documented his life onto a tape on how he felt about the family and his life.  A week later, on my birthday after he had just finished beating me at golf…  We sat in my car in the parking lot and he pulled out of his bag a snickers bar and a bulky envelope.  With tears in his eyes he said…

“Happy Birthday Andy, this isn’t much but here’s a snickers bar and an envelope with something in it that I don’t want you to open until you get home.”

After I dropped him off, I went home and opened the envelope to find a cassette tape.  I sat up in my room that night and began to listen to it.   I cried as I listened to the whole thing.

A week later he passed away and ever since I have had a desire to make sure that I leave something behind for my boys and grandchildren that will leave that lasting impression on them as my Grandfather did for me.