As Memorial Day came and passed, I was reminded of how it was one of the most challenging days of the year for me. This is because of the unfortunate passing of someone, my grandfather, who was the only veteran I was related to. I taught myself to work through pain or write about it. I figured why not do both?
I was a young, depressed, and shy kid in my early life with no father figures around. And the adults around me, besides my mom, weren’t always making the best choices. That affected my life and theirs more often than not. My grandpa Rick told me not to make the same choices as them. I took that advice to heart, and to this day, I look at problems that my friends, family, or myself have and try to learn a lesson from them, whether the situation is good or bad. This is one of my most important traits to date. It keeps me from getting involved in things that I shouldn’t. It led me to research and learn about everything I’ve seen and experienced.
For as long as I can remember, my baby sister, my older brother, and I would sometimes stay at my grandparent’s house on weekends. They saw it as giving my mother a break from taking care of three kids. But for me, it was my favorite place in the world. It was a two-bedroom, one-bathroom apartment on the second floor with friendly neighbors. I learned how to ride a bike and tie my shoes there. Every time I was there, Rick taught me something valuable, or we played cards. I still remember jokes we made while I drummed on his big belly.
I still laugh at these jokes now, even through tears.
Rick wasn’t actually my grandfather, but more like my grandfather-in-law. He served time in the military for this country. He was a sensitive guy, and disciplining us hurt him a lot more than it hurt us. At the time, young kids having emotional and mental stress and anxiety weren’t talked about nearly as much as today. I was shy, depressed, and socially awkward. Rick was the only one that truly understood me and made me feel no different than anyone else. He would always make me laugh and smile one way or another, even when I was mad. Rick was the absolute best to me, and I loved him more than anything else in the world. He encouraged my dreams, was with me every step of the way, made the best food, and loved doing it. Rick and my actual grandfather grilled together for cookouts. It was some of the best food I’ve had in my life. He filled a void in my life that I didn’t know I had until I lost him.
Rick came over to my house the weekend before he passed away. He gave money to my mom and me, stayed over for a little while, then left and went back home.
He died later that week.
I wish I got to spend more time with him. He died in his sleep, likely due to a lack of blood sugar; he had diabetes. His death shocked everyone and hurt those that knew him. He was a good man that helped me navigate my life at a young age in ways no one else could. Over the years, my friends have had concern for me around Memorial day. They ask if I’m alright. They can see the pain of losing him in my face and how I interact with them. I struggled in school afterward. I was way smarter than what my participation showed. I still struggle with focusing today. It happens mainly around the Memorial Day service at school. Rick was the only non-active veteran I knew, so he came to the service while I was in elementary school. My mom wasn’t surprised that my attention in school was slipping with everything going on in my life. But she tried her best not to have me worry about anything other than school.
I’m writing this to not only honor his memory but also to tell everyone, including myself, that I’m OK. It was a tough loss that happened over eight years ago, and I’m still mourning and grieving his loss to this day. Hopefully, writing this will put an end to the grieving process and lay these painful emotions to rest. Instead, remember that he left me with unforgettable memories and lessons that have followed me all my life. While writing this, I learned to detach these good memories from the bad feelings of grief.
It feels great.
Thank you to my friends, family, and teachers that expressed concern and supported me through those hard times. Because of you, I’m finally getting over it, and I’m happy again.
He would be proud of me.