November 28, 2005

My grandfather is 80 years old.  He’s over 6 feet tall, has a love affair with coveralls, and has a laugh that you could identify from miles away.  Grandpa can still get my father’s attention with a simple whistle – and my Dad, who’s heard the whistle for 60 years, knows that it’s his father, and no one else, whistling.  My grandfather tells jokes and drinks coffee and can turn a pile of wood into art.  He likes pie.  He likes music.   He likes Westerns.  My grandfather’s name is Vernon.  He is dying.

Grandpa and I live in the same state, just a couple of hours apart from each other, but I can think of maybe 3 instances in the last 10 years when I’ve seen him.  He called me once a couple of years ago and we talked about gambling and food and my kids.  We exchange holiday cards every year.  That’s about it, though.  I’ve not made a huge effort to keep in contact with him, but neither has he.  That’s kind of the way this family works.  Somehow knowing is enough – there needs to be no big show of it all.
A couple of months ago, he was diagnosed with Non Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, which is the most common type of blood cancer, and which feeds off of stress and a compromised immune system.  My grandfather is chronically depressed, in poor physical health.  What can be a very curable disease is taking him -and taking him fast.  His time is limited, we believe, although you never know.  He’s completed his first round of Chemo and has recently moved out of state to be closer to his daughter and son who can care for him.  Today I learned that he wants to be cremated.  It sounds so final.  So soon.
I remember being a little girl and holding my grandfather’s hand as we walked through World’s of Fun.  I remember traveling to visit family and seeing the truck stop just off the interstate that let us know that we were going to see Grandpa.  He drove a truck for years and then worked on them for years more.  Because of him, I love mashed potatoes.  Because of him, I learned that a frizzy haired woman in her 60’s with too much make up and Aquanet can serve the best piece of apple pie around (sincerely, try a truck stop for dessert – you’ll not regret it.)
I love my grandfather.  I wish I knew more.  I wonder if I’ll have time.  Every day, my heart breaks a little bit more.  Every day, I cry a few more tears.
My grandfather’s name is Vernon.  He is dying.


  1. (((Sarah))), what a sweet sentiment/tribute to Vernon!
    This post made me weep.
    Any chance you can record a conversation with him before he passes? Ask those questions you yearn answers to…
    He sounds like a dear man.

  2. Have you sent a copy of this to him? Maybe send it to LaDonna and have her print it for him to read.

    The memories I have of the grandpa you never knew, were of him asleep in his recliner, mouth open, quietly snoring. He may not have played with me much, but I knew he was there, and when he wasn’t, I climbed in his recliner to feel close to him.

    I haven’t talked to him much either, but I guess it’s time to change that before it’s too late. We should try to get the kids there to see him again, before he’s gone.

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