I took a little break. Two weeks ago on Thursday, I did a Stand-Up Paddleboard yoga class with my friends. SUP yoga, if you’re in the know. For the week leading up to it, I thought I’d be in the know. I don’t even know if I really successfully stood on my stand-up paddleboard. I did a lot of cowering in Child’s Pose, I got some pretty awesome planks in. I fell off during downward dog. It was roughly 5 inches of water and several feet of silt that smelled like decaying fish, which meant that I was wet and smelled like decaying fish. But here’s the thing, I laughed. I howled with laughter and felt no embarrassment. And then I had an amazing dinner and drinks with amazing friends at a fairly nice restaurant where no one wanted to be seated near us.
Two weeks ago, I had to say goodbye to my grandpa.
My grandfather was one of the good old boys. He was one of the ones that served his country and received a Dear John letter in the process. He was the one that worked a thankless job for years to provide for his family. He was the one that had an entrepreneurial spirit that has carried him well into his Golden Years. He owned a Lincoln, drove a big Ford and wanted a new Harley-Davidson last summer. He was an American classic.
I spent as much time with my grandfather as I could because I realize now, at the wizened age of 26, just how precious and limited our time is with the ones we love. My grandfather turned 81 this year and he was dying even then. I don’t mean that in the way that everyone is dying from the moment that they take their first breath, but actually dying. He spent his younger years driving tractor trailers hauling concrete in a time when there were fewer safety regulations and minimal information about the long-term effects of things like asbestos. From the 1950s onward, he was, in the most literal sense, entrenched in dust that was toxic but that’s only a recent revelation. He told me how he stood waist deep in a trailer that was several feet long, shoveling off that day’s paycheck because those were the days before dump trailers. His reward for this back-breaking labor was an advanced case of Mesothelioma and a canister of oxygen that he could (but generally refused to) tote with him.
He’d been sick but was only fairly recently diagnosed and I had the heartbreaking privilege of seeing him come face-to-face with his own mortality, particularly when his friends and men he worked side-by-side with were steadily coming to the ends of their lives. It was not easy to watch.
His health has declined rapidly in his final couple of days and then he slipped from consciousness after deciding to continue any medicines and efforts to prolong his life because he was unhappy with the quality. He deserved a dignified death, he did not deserve to struggle and while I miss him desperately – I woke up over the weekend thinking I should call him to get breakfast, only to realize I couldn’t – I am happy he is no longer uncomfortable or in pain. I suppose that’s all we could ever want for the people we love so much.
I never got the chance to tell him about the diagnosis and my decision to have surgery, and I wouldn’t have anyway. I think it would’ve been confusing for him and while he probably would’ve supported my choice, he might not have understood.
So, now I’ve met the plastic surgeon, I’ve been for pre-op and I’m less than a week away from surgery, but I know I’ll be okay because I’ve got the toughest guy I ever knew looking out for me.