my first day of classes was last monday, january 8th. i spent that day flying back from my family’s house in naples, where i had stayed with my mom and her parents for the past couple of days. they are in their mid-eighties, and both have fairly sever macular degeneration. my grandpa also had a stroke several years back. i’m glad that i spent the weekend with them, because i will remember it forever. i can’t say the same about what would have been a generic first day of classes.
even more special was the way i spent tuesday, january 9th, my second day of classes. i woke up bright and early and drove to dublin to meet my dad. together, we drove to the coldwater, ohio hospital to surprise my grandpa and grandma. my grandpa was very recently diagnosed with cancer, and he was having a port implanted through which he would be receiving chemotherapy. he is a strong man, tough and stubborn, funny and hardworking. at 78 years old, he had been to the hospital a mere three times in his life (which i think includes his most recent trip). it’s hard to say whether he was in a lot of pain prior to his diagnosis, since he rarely complains of any pain or discomfort. not much can get him to a doctor.
growing up, i always thought that my grandpa was larger than life. he is an important figure in his community. he was mayor, and later, the county treasurer and state representative to ohio’s legislature. he is primarily responsible for bringing the hospital to coldwater, along with a new fire station, among other community advancements. he gave many speeches; mesmerizing speeches. he commanded attention, and was clearly a natural born leader. people want to listen to him, they want to follow him, they want to be in his presence. this is a characteristic that i think my own father inherited from him. all of this from a man whose own mother died of lockjaw, causing him to grow up in an orphanage when his father could not handle the responsibilities that a very young child presents. he is a very strong man with a gentle heart.
my grandfather’s booming voice calls out the christmas gifts every year. “to hedley, from rick” and the present is passed through a dozen people before reaching its intended recipient. i have such fond memories of those times, with my many cousins and a dozen aunts and uncles. it’s as if the holidays take on an energy of their own, filling the room wih something more than a physical presence. it’s magical, and he leads it all.
finding out that he has cancer in an advanced stage is shocking. in fact, the day that he was taken to the hospital, he was up on a ladder, stripping wallpaper. he seems like the guy who would never be affected by anything. prime example: he used to smoke, then quit for several years. when he reached 70 or so, he decided, “what the hell, i’m 70 now and if i want to smoke, i’m going to goddamn smoke!” he has the aura of an old time cowboy.
anyway…to go back to tuesday, january 9th, the day that we were at the coldwater hospital…well, we quickly found out that he was actually at st. mary’s hospital several miles away. so, we embarked on another roundabout journey through the quiet farm towns of western ohio to find my grandpa. after stopping at a funny little balloon shop, run by a husband and wife and their dog (haha) for guidance, we made it to our destination. we navigated the labrynthine halls of the hospital and arrived at room 6 of outpatient surgery. we walked in and surprised them both. my grandpa was soon wheeled away for his procedure – but not before joking to the nurse about whether he could snag a beer in the operating room. she said she wished they could, and if so, she would join him. my dad and i sat with my grandma in the hospital room, in a lopsided circle of makeshift chairs beneath the hospital’s buzzing, harsh lights, and waited. my grandma looked worn out, but was strong and in good spirits. we told stories, and laughed, and waited for grandpa’s return. a young, wiry, articulate doctor entered the room to fill us in on how the surgery went. he explained the impending chemo procedure and my grandpa’s current status. shortly thereafter, my grandpa returned.
for a man who had just undergone surgery (with an inadequate and mistakenly administered numbing procedure), he was in good spirits, and ready to eat. my dad suggested behm’s, a lakeside diner a few miles away. so we set off and got situated for one of the most memorable lunches of my life.
we have a big family on my dad’s side. all in all, there might be up to 30 people at a family gathering. while this makes for lots of fun, it doesn’t allow for too many intimate conversations. the lunch i had with my grandma and grandpa was unlike any time i had ever spent with them. i heard stories and told a few of my own, and laughed and felt loved and happy and hopeful for the future. with all of the support my grandpa has from his family, friends, and community, coupled with his own positive attitude, i think great things can happen. i think the positive energy of all of these people can affect his healing, and help to eliminate the cancer from his body. stranger things have happened, and i am a firm believer in the power of positive thought. i love him very, very much, and i am proud to be his granddaughter. i will never forget that day – especially when we were about ready to go, when my grandpa said, “how about i buy you all one more beer?” well, my dad and i gladly accepted, and we sat a bit longer and shared more. it was a wonderful day.
screw the second day of school. i have the memory of a lifetime. i love you, grandpa and grandma.