Dear E & V,
ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS BE GRATEFUL.
For everything. For everyone. The good and the “bad”.
Right now I’m grateful that your Grandpa is my father. He is my hero.
He is struggling with a terminal brain cancer which is causing him to lose his ability to speak and remember things. He is also partially blind due to the location of the tumor on his occipital lobe and he’s started to have trouble walking and standing up. I often just catch him staring into space during social occasions because he can’t keep up with the conversation.
There’s nothing harder than watching your hero lose their powers. Your Grandpa accomplished a lot in his life as a father, husband, veterinarian, US Army officer, and a scientist. I started this blog because of all the amazing lessons he has taught me, and because of the decline he will probably never be able to read it and understand what an impact he has had on my life (though I make it a point to tell him whenever I can).
I always used to joke about his dad strength — I always had to have him get my oil filter off when I was changing the oil in my car because of his dad strength — and I loved playing racquetball with him even though he would almost always win. It’s painful to know that we’ll never be able to do that again.
I miss how he used to be, watching him go for walks with you and roll around on the ground with you and teach me how to install counter tops and talk to me about all my career dilemmas and firefighting stories.
I miss watching him read to you and chase you around the house. I miss laughing with him about farts and poop because we’re both just children in adult bodies.
I could focus all day on the things he will never be able to do again. I can make myself suffer over and over thinking about how unfair life is and how he doesn’t deserve this and should be traveling the world with my mom and holding you without fear of dropping you.
But what’s the point of that? What does that accomplish?
First of all it’s not about me, it’s about him.
Yes, seeing him struggle with the cancer is painful and I cry after every visit with him — but I will gladly put myself through the emotional roller coaster because I love him and I want him to be happy. I want Mimi to be happy, and I know having us there makes them both happy.
Second of all, I would rather focus on the happy moments we still have left — the things that make me grateful to have Grandpa in my life.
I’m grateful he is my father, and that his kindness and goodness are still an example to me and you of how to act towards other people. I’m grateful he can watch you be goofy and smile at you. I’m grateful he can still work with Uncle Eric in his workshop. I’m grateful we can still give each other big hugs and cry on each other’s shoulders. I’m grateful he can still crack jokes. I’m grateful that he can still hold hands with Mimi.
I’m grateful for every single minute I spend with him.
I write these letters for you, but I publish them for other people to read because I want them to know that they’re not alone. I’ve learned a lot of amazing things from your Grandpa, your Mimi, and the rest our wonderful family that I want to share them with people who aren’t as lucky as I am.
We go through life with a lot of hard shit that we have to wade through. Divorces, deaths, job losses, car accidents, disappointments, etc. The average person will let this get to them. They’ll complain about their luck, they’ll wallow in self-pity, they’ll throw blame around, they’ll drown themselves in alcohol or Netflix. They become selfish.
The great person is an optimist even in the darkest of times because they appreciate what they have. They are grateful for even the smallest wins in life — the smile from across the room, the glimpse of the sunrise on their morning commute, the tears that fall during an emotional hug.
This is the hardest letter I’ve ever had to write because it brings up so many painful feelings, I cried pretty much the entire time I was writing it. But it’s worth it because I’m grateful to have YOU in my life, and I get to share my little bit of wisdom with you. It’s worth it because I get to think of all the amazing things I’ve done with your Grandpa, and all the amazing things we’ll continue to do even if it’s not for much longer.
Always, always, always be grateful. Life and relationships are so much more beautiful when you are.
I am a Father, Husband, Cowboy Philosopher, Volunteer Firefighter, and Professional Dilettante. I am nothing and I am everything. But when it comes to our relationship: I only wish you wonder and happiness.