I imagine there are only a few moments in your life, at best, when you have the opportunity to tell another human being--really tell them--the impact they've had on you. The funny thing about these moments is that it seems like each second should be momentous and dripping with meaning, and that usually isn't the case. It often seems that they could easily be mistaken as a moment of lesser import because they are sandwiched in between more mundane and trivial affairs: Did I remember to turn off the coffee pot? My foot itches How long would a piece of hail last if I were to save it in my freezer?
Yesterday morning I had the opportunity to say these things to my grandpa--my favorite person in the world, living or dead. I was exhausted and feeling rushed My hair was dripping from taking a bath and I was having trouble getting my suitcase closed. I needed to stop and get gas before getting on the interstate to go back to the Pittsburgh airport.
I felt self-conscious about asking my mom and my step-grandma to leave me alone with him for a few moments. I worried that I would lose my nerve to face up to this conversation. I wondered how to sum up a lifetime of love for and memories of and gratitude toward someone.
He looked small and frail in pajamas that have grown too big for him. I pulled a kitchen chair into the living room and sat next to him in his recliner. I took his hand into mine and looked him in the eyes. I told him everything I wanted to say. I wept. I thanked him for loving me and helping to raise me. I told him how important he was to me and I loved him very much.
He squeezed my hand and listened to me with tears in his eyes. He told me in a weak voice that I'd brought so much happiness into his life. He told me not to feel guilty about not coming home for his funeral because he didn't want one. He told me he would watch over me. He told me he'd had a good life. I stroked his arm and asked him if he was scared. "No," he said quietly.
I hugged and kissed him, called everyone back in the room, and said my goodbyes. Then I slipped back into business mode--loading my suitcase in the car, checking my watch, and returning to the life I've created for myself on the west coast.