A little context about this letter. I was afraid to post it because the vulnerability here scares the living sh*t out of me. Also, I was questioning whether this letter really fit the travel/lifestyle blog I am attempting to create. Well, I don’t think it fits the traditional “travel” blog persona but this is real stuff that I am thinking about before I travel. More specifically I have been thinking about death. Not in a good or bad way but in a real way. What if I don’t see my friends or family again?
I don’t want to leave anything left on the table before I start my journey. I want the people that are in my life to know that I love them. It’s a challenge for me though because that was the opposite of the way I was raised. The word love has been flying out of my mouth and I really f+cking mean it. I think I am also getting better with hugs. Hopefully this letter will give you a little encouragement to hug more and tell the people you care about how you feel about them.
I held back. Held back on telling you how I really felt. Held back from squeezing you. Not because you were a giant man but because I never saw anyone else do it. You raised us to be tough, to be strong, to work hard. I still think of your strength when I am challenged in life.
You were a terrible fisherman but only when I was in the boat (according to you). You had that giant fish hanging in the garage above the beer fridge in North Saint Paul to prove it. I kind of felt like that one fish sucked up all of your fishing luck from the lake. I sometimes watch Grumpy Old Men because that movie reminds me of you.
I remember the late night conversations fueled with brandy as I told you what I knew about the world. Little did I know, I really had no idea. Was that the reason you would nod in and out of sleep?
You showed me grace when you knew your time had come. That day we had the party to celebrate your life with the giant white tent that covered your driveway grace appeared in the most unexpected place. It was the simplest of gestures but given the circumstances it made a huge impact on me. There were two men that were hoisting the tent up and you saw that they were tired. Your lungs were being supported by a machine and you could no longer walk but you offered those men something to drink. You were still giving, still thinking of other people, even at the end.
The basement of your home in North Saint Paul was dark and cold as I laid in bed holding off on what I knew was going to be my last physical connection with you. I had a flight to catch back to Colorado early the next morning. I drummed up all the courage I could and headed upstairs to your room. The room where you and grandma would sleep with the talk radio playing all night. You lied there waiting for me. I climbed up onto your barrel chest and gave you a giant hug. All 6’2” of and 200 lbs of me started trembling as tears came pouring out. I kissed you on your forehead and told you that I love you. You told me that you love me too. As I laid in bed alone sobbing downstairs I could hear Kristi (my cousin) playing the accordion outside my window. I am pretty sure you could hear it too. Somehow she was playing the perfect song, at the perfect moment. It sounded like angels were singing to us.
We were so lucky to share that one last experience together before you passed. To tell each other how we really felt. I had always felt the love but it was like a wall had come down when we said the word “love” to each other. I don’t want to live my life with missed opportunities of telling the people I love. I don’t want to miss the hugs with friends, family or even strangers. That final moment together is coming up again in my life as I want to work on the strength of sharing softness. Forgiving quickly and loving harder.
I love you Grandpa.