Today is a special day, it’s February 5th. Each day we are given is a gift, but this day in particular has always been a special one, and it’s extra special this year.
First – I’ve been blogging for one full month now. I never thought “blogger” would be a hat I would wear, but so far this hat has been one of my favorites. To anyone who is reading this, or has read any of the posts I’ve made so far – thank you. I hope you have found some valuable information with a little inspiration over the last few weeks. The focus of this blog really isn’t about me, but to give you a useful source of info.
Second (and much more importantly) – today is my sweet grandfather’s 86th birthday. To say I’m grateful for each day with him, and for the last 30+ years spent with him, is an understatement. He’s quiet and reserved, but always quick with a comeback and probably the most observant person I know. You might think you know what he’s thinking or what he will say about a subject, but often it’s just the opposite of what you expect. I happen to love this – he’s full of wisdom, but not that cliché grandparent wisdom we all talk about. He has supported me through everything, and I do mean everything. He’s been there for my pretty days as well as my ugliest, darkest days, and he’s been the same for each of them.
My grandfather is humble (except concerning his Ping-Pong skills), classifies older people or even those near his own age as “old folks”, and loves basically any sport. Baseball is by far his game of choice and I grew up with the lulling sound of a baseball game usually on in the background. Even today, any time I hear a baseball game on television it immediately takes me back to my childhood. Sometimes, I even purposefully leave it on. Sounds have such a powerful way of bringing back memories. You see, I spent a lot of my childhood with my grandparents. Not because I wasn’t blessed with fantastic parents, but because I simply wanted to.
As a child I was his “babe” and he affectionately became “buddy boy”. I never ran out of words to say, and he never seemed to run out of time to listen to them (and still doesn’t). We spent a lot of time at our favorite hangout spots back then – watching the airplanes land at the airport, throwing rocks in the local dam, and frequenting our favorite playground. I suppose it didn’t take much to thrill me.
My grandfather was also the one who dropped me off and picked me up daily from school until I started driving. We spent my entire 4thgrade year making individual state projects together and we also ventured into the world of papier-maché to construct the Strait of Gibraltar and the Statue of Liberty.
And then there are his cooking skills. There’s seldom a time I go by my grandparents’ house that he doesn’t have some fabulous creation for me to try. His chicken salad has catered several couples’ weddings, and his oatmeal and toast are legit delicious. I know what you’re thinking – how could oatmeal and buttered toast possibly be that amazing – but you just don’t know what he can do with a little sugar and butter. And then the egg sandwiches… how many times my sister and I have asked for an egg sandwich at any hour of the day, and never once have I heard him say “I don’t have time,” or “maybe tomorrow”, or even ask why anyone needs an egg sandwich at 10 o’clock at night. He’s simply that kindhearted, and not just to us, but to everyone. Never complaining, but always smiling.
I could probably write a novel about all the times we’ve shared. After all, he is the one who taught me all the important things in life – like how you should always strain the sausage from your gravy, take the embryos out of your egg yolks, that you can’t fix stupid, and to always be on time. I have failed him miserably with that last one.
But there is one reason that his birthday this year is extra special, which most people are unaware of. Yes, I do have his permission to share this with you. Last year, my family had planned a trip to Africa for my grandfather. Why Africa? Because this man knows more about the animals of that beautiful continent than National Geographic! Until just a few years ago, no one knew he was a walking encyclopedia on the Great Migration.
Everything was ready to go, and everyone was filled with excitement during the weeks leading up to the trip. Safari hats were bought and binoculars were ready. And then, my grandfather started feeling ill. At first we brushed it off as just a reaction to one of the vaccines. But we knew something was up when he stopped going outside to pick up his daily newspaper. He progressively got worse, to the point that he lost his appetite and began losing a significant amount of weight. Let’s just say, this little guy doesn’t have much to lose. He started getting out of breath easily and when my oldest shih tzu started laying by his side, we all assumed the worst thing possible – cancer. In spite of his normal bloodwork, we still had this ugly c-word in the back of our minds. Since I was old enough to know what death was, I have always “worried” about what would happen to my family, and especially my grandfather. Naturally, our minds tend to jump to the worst possible outcome and this is precisely where my mind was venturing.
A few weeks passed by, without any signs of improvement. My grandfather is one to avoid a doctor visit at all costs, so we were even further alarmed when he agreed to have some imaging studies done.
And this is when our lives were turned upside down.
The results came back on a Friday in August and all I remember doing was receiving the news and immediately starting to sob. His CT results were read to show cancer in his prostate, with possible invasion into the bladder and lung. We were totally devastated. I will spare you the precise details of that emotional whirlwind of a day, as it’s still nauseating to think about. I will just say that his CT was initially read incorrectly and, nothing short of miraculously, there were no signs of cancer to be found. Putting that into words seems so inadequate compared with the rollercoaster ride it took us on.
My family and I are so thankful for today and what it means for my grandfather, when, for a brief time last August, we weren’t sure he would see this birthday. Thankfully, God is always in control and His perfect plan prevails. Even when we can’t see what’s happening or understand why, He knows the outcome. The day we literally thought “he’s dying of cancer” was no doubt a swift punch in the stomach. I woke up that morning with my usual list of things to do and my agenda. My silly little plans were annihilated that day and I was quickly reminded that our lives are just fragile little vapors – here today and gone tomorrow.
Even though my grandfather has recovered and continues to be blessed with good health, there are so many people whose stories turn out differently. His experience taught me to hug everyone a little bit tighter and to be content. Never once did he complain through his illness. No, not one negative word. I believe contented and grateful sums him up – something we can all strive for.
Live well, by design.