There is a 95% chance that I am not going to make it through this post without crying my eyes out. Considering I am sitting at Cafe Primo in Sunset Plaza this miiigghhhtttt make for an interesting sight.
I’ve sort of touched upon this in the last week or so, but I recently became involved with the charity Chris4Life, and am now one of the chairs for their celebrity date auction at the SLS hotel in a few weeks.
Their PR person reached out to me a little while back and asked if I would like to attend the event as press. The SECOND I realized that Chris4Life benefited colon cancer I freaked and said I needed to be involved as more than just press.
<tangent> I’m fascinated by the notion of being “busy,” the definition has changed SO MUCH over the last few years!! I used to freak out even writing certain posts saying that I was so busy and running around … blah blah blah. It was no doubt true, but now I am definitely the busiest I have ever been in my entire life yet I don’t feel it. It took me getting emotionally and financially grounded to feel less “cray” and be able to actually do more with less effort. I can’t empahsize ENOUGH how important it is to be grounded as an entrepreneuer. Find something that grounds you. For me it is spinning. I need to spin now for an hour every day and remain completely disconnected. I’m nuts, and that’s cool because it’s part of what I’m known for … but now, I’m less nuts at my core and being able to breathe throughout all of this has been specfuckingtacular. </tangent>
I digress. Back to the charity …
I lost my grandfather to colon cancer in 2004 so this is very personal for me.
Storytime kiddies … gather round …
My grandfather was an interesting man. Like the granddaughter he assisted in producing, he was loud, wildly inappropriate, forceful, and no matter what you ALWAYS knew where you stood with him.
No questions asked, ever.
The problem growing up with someone like that though is they’re not always the most outwardly loving people.
I spent almost every summer, and a lot of weekends (as we would have family dinners quite often) with my grandparents. Since I was estranged from my dad’s parents, my grandparents tried making up for it as best as they could with that “something extra.” My grandparents loved all their grandchildren very deeply, but they always took a special liking to my brother and I; we just all kinda got each other. My brother was always helping out around the house, and I was usually off on some solo adventure in the woods, or playing an epic game of solitaire. (Nothing has changed.)
Rather than say how “special” he thought we were, my grandfather picked on us to show affection. I was an extremely sensitive child so he took sick joy in seeing how quickly he could make me cry.
My grandmother would in turn yell at him, and he would snicker this very deep evil laugh that I can STILL hear to this day.
It was gut ridden, with this breathiness … and the beats in between each “ha;” he was methodical like a composer.
I thought he was the devil, but my mother explained to me one day when I was old enough to understand that that’s just how he was.
He didn’t have a happy childhood, Jenny, she would say. He doesn’t know how to show love like you do. This is the only way he knows, and he did the same to me growing up too.
My mom was the baby in her family and her two sisters were RELENTLESS at teasing her (still are unfortunately). I can only imagine having your father chime in as well, but that’s not my story to tell and my parents are fans of their privacy which shall remain respected.
He was abused by a member of the family growing up, she explained.
What does that mean? I asked back innocently.
He was hit, sweetie.
Having seen a ton of after school specials, and Lifetime: Family in crisis, I knew what it meant but it was difficult to actually wrap my brain around it all.
My grandfather was such a big, strong man. Imagining him as a small child to begin with was extremely difficult let alone allowing anyone to strike him was just … mind boggling.
Later that summer, my grandfather offered to take us out on the ski bob. (We had boats growing up and my grandparents even bought this floation thingie similar to a tube, but it was shaped and looked like a rocket. The ski bob was the funnest. thing. ever.)
Pop (as we all called him) put on his swimsuit and came down to the dock where my brother and I were waiting.
He was in his swim trunks, but as he took off his shirt I noticed all of these marks on his back.
Imagine wearing a striped shirt. Now take the same length of the stripe (across the ENTIRE back) and instead of it being on a shirt imagine it being imprinted into your skin.
I stared in shock.
He had been whipped with a cat and nine tails as a youth and even now as an adult, his back remained branded.
The abuse that my brain couldn’t process was now staring me dead in the face.
I vividly remember being struck with gratitude in that moment. I was so grateful I didn’t have someone in my life like he did.
I’m very blessed, I thought as I tried to look away conscious to not offend him.
Our relationship continued to have its series of ups and downs throughout my adolescence. I gained a much thicker skin with his teasing, and even saw a softer side of his one day when I saw a family of ducks get attacked by a seagull.
<tangent> STILL to this day one of the most horrifying things I have ever seen. Growing up on the lake, I used to feed various families of ducks. They would come along usually at the same time every day, and I would run down with stale bread my grandmother had set aside for me to allow to feed them. It was GREAT and ALWAYYYSSSSS the highlight of my day. I may have been a social outcast with a lot of the other kids my age, but old people and animals were my jam.
One day, when I was about 10 I went down to the dock to feed the ducks and moments into breaking off the first piece of bread for the family, this REALLY BIG seagull came down and began PECKING on the mother’s head to the point where it went under water and never came up.
Wow, I’m actually tearing up even thinking about this story. Crazy what can have an effect on you as a child.
I don’t know why it did it, as I had at that point been feeding ducks my ENTIRE life and had yet to experience anything like this, but it was HORRIFYING watching the little ducklings scramble for shelter as their mother was being killed.
I IMMEDIATELY started screaming at the top of my lungs (I was down there solo), and covered my eyes to not witness the death.
Tears started pouring from my eyes as my little legs carried me as fast as they could up the stairs to tell my grandparents what had happened.
My grandfather had gone out to the garage to get me another loaf of bread from the freezer as he stopped me on the stairs.
What happened?! He asked at my completely lost composure.
Seagull, killed, mother, duck, came out of my mouth.
I sobbed into his shoulder as I wondered what would happen to the babies.
Her babies are going to die, I cried into his now very wet shoulder.
My grandfather said nothing, but just held me very close and very tight. Up until this point in my life, he had never been affectionate with me in this manner. He was the kind of person that would sit there even at the dinner table and read a newspaper instead of socializing. My grandmother would inquire if we bored him, and without a SINGLE bit of hesitation, he would reply … yes, yes you do.
To not only have his attention like this, but for the first time in my life I could feel love from him. He wanted more than anything to take away what I had just witnessed, and make all of it go away.
This was NOT the grandfather I was used to. </tangent>
Pop was nice to me for about the remainder of the week, but sometime later everything went back to normal. His behavior was always excused because it was “just the way he is,” and “he really doesn’t know any better.”
My brother and I would crack jokes with him as he was reading (he read a book a day) saying we were going to join the army, and go skydiving since he wasn’t paying attention to us.
Go ahead, he would always say without even putting the book down.
We were INFINITELY amused by the lengths we could take it to without him even batting an eye.
Of course, he knew we would never do it, but to young kids it’s barrels of laughs.
Then, in 1999, (my freshman year of high school) we found out that my grandfather’s cancer had returned.
He had initally been diagnosed with it in 1975, and then once again in 1986. I was so young at the time (I was only 2 with his last go round) so I had no concept of him ever being “sick” but I was told this time that it wasn’t looking very good.
I honestly forget what he was re-diagnosed with but it was either stage 3 or 4.
At that point, I had a handful of family members die, but no one I spent as much time with like my grandparents. We were always with them, and as much of a pain in the ass he was, he was OUR pain in the ass and life without him was very difficult to imagine.
Almost immediately with his new stage diagnosis something had changed. This naturally cold man, had suddenly started telling us all how much he loved us and how much we meant to him.
There go the tears again … bastards … sunglasses time.
This was the kind of love I received from my parents, but had never seen expressed from my grandfather. He was even outwardly loving to my grandmother whom had been married to him since she was 19 at that point, but had very much an Archie and Edith type relationship. He was the ogre, and she was the dingbat (but grossly exaggerated of course).
I vividly remember thinking how much life changes for people when they have an understanding of their own mortality. Having had a series of near death experiences as a kid, I had a heightened appreciation for life, but to see something change in such a black and white manner at such an early age left quite an impression on me.
My brother finished high school a year later, and I followed suit finishing in 2001 and walking with my class at graduation in 2002.
My grandfather had gone through his treatments at that time, and had lost all of his remaining combed over hair.
The physical change was obvious, but so was this surge of power to fight this diagnosis. He was so determined to beat this, no matter what the odds looked like. He didn’t want to listen to a single doctor, nor accept that he only had a little bit longer to live.
Like our discussions at the dinner table, he was bored and disinterested with having to deal with cancer once again.
2002 was a rough year for my family. Not only did we suddenly have people drop like flies every 3 weeks for the first six months (I went to a LOT of funerals that year), but I was also being simultaneously stalked by girls I went to high school with. We never wanted to let my grandfather know how bad it had gotten, but one day while I was watching TV with him, he caught something in my eyes and pulled me aside.
Come here Missy, he said. (his pet name for me)
Are those girls still causing you trouble?
My eyes started to well up with tears. At any moment I was nearing a full on nervous breakdown (which did happen a few years later) and wasn’t sure how much more I could take.
I said nothing.
I want you to know, that I know some people. If it gets to that point will you let me know?
My grandfather had worked in sales for a while and let’s just say some of his associates in Rhode Island weren’t exactly the “law abiding” type.
I smiled through the tears at his gesture. I knew in my soul no matter how bad things were getting I wouldn’t stoop to that level, but in that moment there was this break of laughter and comedic relief.
Only Pop could ever get away with saying something like that, I thought.
I never questioned him about his associates, but I did tell my mom years a few years later and she emphasized how serious he must have been in that moment.
He would never have said something like that if he didn’t mean it, Jen.
Oh I know, I said back. He was VERY serious.
The stalking settled in June of 2003, and at that point I had moved to NYC spending less and less time with my grandfather.
It’s natural for a child’s life to mature at that point, but I felt very guilty being apart from my family.
I came home every other weekend to be near everyone.
By the time the end of 2003 came around, my grandparents had been spending almost all of their time in their condo in Florida. My grandfather loved being on the ocean, and my grandmother loved being close to so many of her friends who had also taken up residence in the sunshine state.
I was only 19 at the time, and instead of being able to go back to Connecticut after I was done with school in NYC (I was still fearful of the stalkers), I moved into my parents townhouse in Florida and crashed rent free for a few months.
The move also brought me closer to my grandparents who were at that time, only a few hours away. It was a win win for everyone.
I visited my grandparents frequently and as the year drew to a close my mother came down in more rapid succession as my grandfather’s health was finally failing.
We knew he was going to ring in 2004, but wasn’t sure for how long he was going to be with us past that.
I vividly remember at that time sitting in my grandparents condo watching my grandmother flit about like nothing was wrong. Her husband would sit in his chair, my mother at his side, and my grandmother would make dinner plans, and schedule events like nothing was the matter.
I guess we all deal with grief in our own way, I thought.
I can’t imagine being with someone for over 50 years, and then face the idea of living our your remaining time on this planet without them. They may have been like Edith and Archie, but their love was real. Very very real.
By the end of January of 2004, we were told he was in the final stages as hospice was called in to take care of him.
At that point I still couldn’t really process him finally leaving this earth. He had been in the final stages for almost 5 years at that point, and to see this … fight … in his eyes was incredible.
This man was DETERMINED to be the one human being to defy the odds and live forever.
My mom practically moved into my grandparents place at that point as she didn’t want to leave my grandfather’s side.
Because I was working as a server at that time, I couldn’t be there as much as her, nor did my mom even want me to see some of the things she saw in the end with my grandfather.
<tangent> My mother is such an incredible woman. The love she had for her parents … and the UTTER devotion until the very end. It was a beautiful thing to see. </tangent>
The last week of January I got a call from my mother that the end was finally here, and she wanted me to come down and say my peace.
I remember parking my little convertible and walking into their condo.
This is going to be the last time, I say hello to my grandfather, I thought.
After so much time, and the relentless teasing I finally, at age 19 understood how MUCH my grandfather loved me and how difficult life was for him in general. He lived with SO MUCH regret in so many different areas of his existence … let alone what he went through as a child … (again not my story to tell).
I walked into his bedroom, and saw him resting quietly on the bed.
His face had that “cancer” look to it, as his body was finally ready to expire.
I walked around to the other side of the bed and climbed in with him.
Hi Pop, I whispered (wow, the fucking tears just don’t stop!!) kissing his forehead.
He woke up at that point excited to see me.
Hi Missy, he said with his eyes still mostly closed.
I just wanted to say how much I love you, I said hugging him as best as I could given the awkward positioning.
He then uttered the single most important thing I have ever been told in my entire life (still to this day) …
… I want you to follow your dreams, he said with as much might as he could muster.
Both of my grandparents at that point knew I wanted to move to Los Angeles and work in the entertainment industry but without a single connection, or single friend on the West Coast, it wasn’t exactly looking promising.
At least she can fall back on how good she is with the computer, my grandfather would say. There’s money in computers so she’ll never starve. That’s good.
He was so hilariously dismissive about everything but technology in regards to my future.
I was INSANELY good with tech from such an early age; my family viewed it as a gift, but for me it was just how I was hard wired. I never got people, but I ALWAYS could figure out a technical issue if I just sat with it long enough troubleshooting.
Being told in this very last moment spent with my grandfather to follow my dreams versus being “realistic” and just directly pursuing a career in programming or engineering was extremely profound.
There was always this cloud of regret around my grandfather, but in this moment he displayed hope and I could see how much he not only loved me, but believed in me. He knew I was going to “make
it,” whatever the “it” was that I was after.
I stayed in bed with him for about an hour after. He didn’t speak, but neither did I. We just had this shared energy and this shared moment for one last time. I couldn’t bring myself to finally say good bye and finally leave.
I blocked out the rest of that evening from my memory. I don’t remember saying good bye, I don’t remember much of anything other than that final sentence he said and the hour afterwards.
The next morning, before my shift at work, I got a call from my mother.
My grandfather had finally lost his epic battle with colon cancer.
I sat down on the couch sobbing and praying.
It’s been almost a decade since I’ve lost my grandfather and not a week goes by that I don’t think about him. I still have both his and my grandmothers cell phone numbers both programmed in my phone. I am reminded every time I am scrolling through of his final words to me.
It was in fact those final words that propelled me a few months after his death to move to Los Angeles and to finally go after my dreams.
As life would have it, I took a chance and it has since paid off. I’ve always felt a little more fearless knowing that he was NO DOUBT watching over me.
::end of flashback::
A few weeks ago when I got the email to attend the event it was obviously a no brainer to also offer to help in any way I could. I didn’t just want to be an attendee, I wanted to say thank you to my grandfather for his words of encouragement. I am now 28 years old, and from head to toe living out my passion and my dream every day. Had it not been for those final words, who knows if I would have developed enough confidence to make such a bold move at such a young age.
My grandfather may have “had a guy” to take care of things for me back when I was being stalked, but now thanks to all of you loverly people, I have friends all over the world that have my back.
Funny how life works out.
And on a more personal note, this life experience isn’t dedicated to a sponsor … it’s just a simple thank you from a loving granddaughter to her grandfather and an expression of gratitude for his wisdom and for still watching out over me.
This one is for you Pop! xx
“In these bodies we will live, in these bodies we will die. Where you invest your love, you invest your life.”
Thanks for reading everyone, and even if you’re not in LA there are options to make a donation. Hope to see you guys!!
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