When you are a kid, you never think about your loved ones not being there. It's almost impossible to think about them being removed from this world, because they have always been there. You spend your Saturdays playing in the backyard constantly looking up at their backporch to see if one of them would come out. When they would, you would wave and hope there wouldn't be many questions. There was something about answering 20 questions about school/elementary school boyfriends/life in general that wasn't too appealing espcially on a Saturday.
And those mid-summer/mid-winter visits next door were the worst. Their house was either hotter than blazes or colder than the artic. It was non-stop talking about something that Sis and I couldn't understand. Most of it probably was about Auburn, football, or Auburn football. At the age of 7, I wasn't too interested in football talk. Not appealing...
Something else not appealing: pulling up to the bus stop in the afternoons looking to see if he was standing there to (yep, you guessed it) ask 20 questions and chit-chat for 5 minutes. Did he not understand? We were ready to get home to our snacks and cartoons. We couldn't miss The Rescue Rangers or Saved by the Bell reruns. We were on a strict afternoon schedule before homework had to be done. We didn't have 5 minutes to spare.
Now I would give up a lifetime of tv just to have 5 more minutes with him....
My first grandparent to pass away was my father's father. We called him Popa, but our (older) cousins called him Granddaddy. My dad is the baby of 3 with a brother 17 years older than him and a sister (who passed away in 1996 from leukemia) 11 years older than him. Needless to say, Sissy and I grew up on my dad's side without cousins around our age. Popa and my grandmother, Winnie, lived next door to us. Or rather we lived next door to them since we bought part of their land in the late '80s to build a house.
Growing up, Popa always wanted to see/talk to Sis and me. There was nothing about our lives that he didn't want to know about. Sadly and shamefully, we didn't pay him the time of day he deserved. It was a huge inconvenience to stop and talk. I think that is what I feel so guilty about now.
November 2001 Popa had surgery. Honestly, I can't even remember what type of surgery it was because it was so minor that everything was sure to be alright. I mean how life-threatening could a little surgery be to someone who was 83 and in tip-top shape? Well, the surgery itself was fine, but it was the sponge that was left inside of him that began the downward spiral. When we found out about the sponge, we initally thought something the size of a dish-washing sponge. After much questioning, the sponge was the size of a foot by foot (12" x 12'). Someone in the O.R. was not doing their job because all utensils and equipment had to be accounted for before he was sewn up. It's odd to think that the sponge was causing factor of what was to come. He developed pneumonia in one lung and then the other. He wasn't getting any better. He was put in the ICU. How life-threatening could this little surgery be?
I will never forget the call: Sunday, December 23rd roughly 5pm. Dad called Sis and me to meet him and Mom at the hospital, because he wasn't expected to make it much longer. No way, I thought. There is no way! It was just a sponge!
There was a whole room full of us there: cousins, my uncle, Mom, Dad, Sissy, my old youth minister, and others. We gathered around his bed and watched him breathe his last breath around 6:30pm on December 23rd, less than 2 days before Christmas.
I was a senior in high school and thought about my graduation without him. In early September, I was accepted to Auburn, which I was able to share with him. Popa was the biggest Auburn fan I knew (even bigger than my dad which is hard to believe if you know him) and I knew he was proud of my accomplishment. I think my degree from Auburn was my gift to him. I still regret my actions of ignoring him and not spending more time with him. Being a kid, you don't think about what the future holds, or who it doesn't hold.
Today on the 10th anniversary of his passing, I remember all of the good times we had. I wish I had more time, but that time will come again.