78.

My grandpa has the most perfect hands. They’re soft, despite the hard work he has done throughout his entire lifetime. I like to think the weathered wrinkles in his fingertips each count for another story that has made up his incredible life. He has nicely shaped, clean fingernails that I like to trace with the pad of my thumb, mindlessly as I hold his hand. I have never known the shape of his hands as well as I do now, when he is 78 years old.

My grandpa also has the most perfect teeth. This I’ve always known. They are perfectly straight and perfectly shaped besides one on the bottom that’s a little shorter than the rest and what I love most is his smile when he winks at me with both eyes the way he has all my life. I didn’t know until my grandpa was 78 years old that his teeth were artificial, because for a long time it seemed as though my grandpa was ageless to me.

My grandpa was ageless by the strength in his step and his unwavering voice. He was stronger than the fishing rod that I swear he caught ten thousand fish with. He was ageless when he mowed his lawn and helped us move and threw back the whiskey like he was my 50 year old dad or 27 year old brother or 24 year old cousin. He was 24 with me when my grandma made heaps of potato pancakes that I just couldn’t finish on my own. His sense of humor was ageless, although that remains the same now that I realize he is 78 years old.

My grandpa keeps his twinkle in his eye, that makes me feel he has a little boy’s mischievously pure heart, not a heart that is taking him away from me. His eyes are the most beautiful color of blue, a blue I have not ever seen before that I really can’t accurately describe. My grandpa’s eyes are blue like the sky on a beautiful clear day with no clouds but softer and deeper and kinder. My grandpa’s sense of humor remains, and is both clever and sweet, and inappropriate at times but hilarious nonetheless despite the fact his humor is now a mask for his fear of the unknown.

For the first time in my life, my grandpa looks old to me. I thought he was invincible and although he didn’t fail me, I know now that there is no such thing. Life is good when you are someone’s little princess. But life is very hard when you are about to lose your king. I don’t think the word ‘hard’ actually describes it and I think it’s more like unbearable but it’s hard to be able to put a name to this feeling that is both agonizing and numb at the same time. How many two eyed winks can I give back to my grandpa to let him know how deeply I love and cherish him? I don’t know if when I was just a little princess that I gave my grandpa the love he deserved.

I called my grandpa “Buster” once for intruding on my pillow fort and he didn’t like that one bit. Another time he taught me to fish and the first thing I caught on my fishing rod was his favorite bucket hat that is now swimming deep at the bottom of a Manitoba lake. I think he knows I’m sorry for those times because we laugh now but had I known how much it would hurt to miss him now while he’s still with me but slowly slipping away I would have apologized a thousand times. I probably did. I’ve always loved my grandpa something fierce. He’s always been my king.

I loved hearing about the old days when my grandpa whispered to my grandma the first time that they danced, “let’s be together forever” or something like that, just like the song they were dancing to said. I loved that my grandma learned how to cook from her mom just to cook for my grandpa and my grandpa loved every single thing she made him and finished his plate every time and mine if I couldn’t eat the rest. I love that he wrote her letters when he was away and risked a lot to make a good life for her and my mom and her sister. He really did a good job at that and I hope he knows it and I hope I get the chance to tell him that in case he doesn’t.

My grandpa was too tired to watch the fireworks. The impact of the fireworks tonight, on the first of July in the sky thumped against the glass windows of the hospital harder than my grandpa’s heart beats. Harder than the oxygen helping him breathe. But the impact of the fireworks did not thump harder than the ache in my own heart thumps at the thought of losing my grandpa at only 78 years old.

My grandpa did the best he could because he knew we weren’t ready for him to leave us. I know my grandpa didn’t want to leave us either. I know my grandpa must be close nearby because his skin is still warm and because I have prayed and prayed and prayed that he wouldn’t leave me just yet and I don’t want to believe that he did so he must be here with me somehow. My grandpa looks like he’s sleeping and I think that’s what we all want to think too because my grandpa was only 78 years old when he passed away and to me that’s much too young and he was much too loved to leave us at 78 years old.

I wanted to talk and talk and talk about my grandpa and how wonderful he was and how much I love him and all the things in between but now that I lost my grandpa I feel like I’m in a limbo between shocked and broken and numb and my words just don’t want to come out anymore.

Kocham ciebie, Dziadzo.

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