Grandpa Phil

Grandpa Phil on the trolley in Memphis Winter 2010

Grandpa Phil on the trolley in Memphis
January 2010

Grandpa and Aly Christmas 2010

Grandpa and Aly
Christmas 2010

Grandpa and Elizabeth, the baby he called, "My new favorite." Fall 2011

Grandpa and Elizabeth. He’s been quoted to refer to her as his “favorite.”
Fall 2011

Grandpa Phil and Ellie Shea dining Spring 2012

Grandpa Phil and Ellie Shea dining
Spring 2012

Where do I start? I guess at the beginning. Grandpa Phil has always been my favorite; I am sure that I am his favorite too. When I was little, we would watch the Jungle Book at his house, and he would feed us chocolate to the dismay of my health-nut mother. I remember him taking us to the A&W Drive-In in Berthoud. I remember him and my dad teaching me how to swim when I was four. “It’s like riding a bike,” he told me. Needless to say, I swim really weird because of that. When I was little, I always wanted to ride on his Harley, but then I would cry the whole time because I got scared. So he would give me orange sherbet ice cream and hug me and it was all perfectly wonderful.

When I was a little older, my siblings and I would spend the night in his tiny studio apartment for retired people. He slept on a futon, and, even though mom packed up sleeping bags, we all insisted that we were scared and needed to sleep with Grandpa. I’m pretty sure he ended up sleeping on the floor, and, if my parents had known, we would have received a spanking. He took us to Starbucks, let us pick out our very own Starbucks mug. He’d order us decaf carmel cappuccinos, and we thought we were the best and coolest people on the planet.

In third grade, it was “Bring your parent to school” Day. My dad normally came, but for some reason this one year he couldn’t. My mom worked at the school, so I couldn’t bring her. I called my Grandpa crying, so he came. I remember when he walked in the classroom, I jumped on him. I was wearing a dress, and it flipped up. Luckily, I was wearing shorts. Still, I was sensitive and emotional and really easily embarrassedd, and so he took me in the hallway so the other kids wouldn’t see me crying.

He helped (and by helped I mean built) our house when I was in middle school. I mean, hours and days and weeks and months of building and building and building. I remember one time when I was 12 just the two of us went to get coffee at the local coffee shop in the small town where we lived, and I wanted to order the coffee on my own. I ordered a regular cappuccino on accident, so he took it and put a ton of sugar in it so that I would like it. I remember waking up really early and we would sit at the table and watch the sunrise and drink coffee (again, mom was not happy about that). We didn’t really talk. We mostly just sat and watched, and he would hold my hand.

When we moved to Florida, he would stay with us for 3 months out of the year, normally in the fall/winter when it would get cold in Colorado. He’d take me to horse riding lessons every single Saturday on the back of his motorcycle. He drove soooooooo slow so that I wouldn’t get scared. Cars honked, and he would say, “Let them honk.”

He taught me how to drive when I was 15, mostly because  my parents refused to (I was pretty awful). We would go way out to the middle of nowhere and drive his truck, which was a stick shift. One time, I ran a stop sign over. He got out of the car and pushed it up like new… sort of. He got back in the truck, where I was bawling; all he said was, “I won’t tell your mom.” Then he took me to a movie to make me feel better.

He was in the audience of almost every play I was ever in. He was in the stands cheering me on during my very short athletic career. He was at my high school, college, and grad school graduations. When I first moved to Memphis, he made several trips during my first three and a half years here. He insisted on moving boxes up and down stairs, even though his health had been declining for quite some time.

During that one really hard break up a year and a half ago, he hugged me and told me how loved I was.

And this past year has been so hard. In and out of hospitals, surgeries, medications – moving him from my parents home where he had lived for five years to a nursing home. But he still knew me a year ago; he knew me 8 months ago; I don’t think he knows me now, and that is really hard to accept. But what is harder is that this really is the end. I mean, he’s going, and there is not a whole lot of time left.

We all keep hoping that he’s going to just bounce back, but it doesn’t look like that is going to happen this time. And there are a million regrets and things that my family wishes we would have done differently. We hoped that the surgery from a year ago would heal him, make his body healthier, make him live longer. Instead, it just sped up the end.

Anyways, I’m just a bunch of feelings right now that I don’t normally let myself feel because they are extremely unpleasant and they interfere with my sleep. But ignoring them is unhealthy, so I suppose I need to feel this and write this and share it, if for no one else, my family and me.

I suppose at the end of it all, I have been blessed beyond measure to have had my sweet Grandpa in my life for nearly 26 years. It just sucks because he’s not going to see me get married or have kids. I guess I had this weird expectation that he would. But back to the being blessed thing – I know that the greatest blessing in my life is the people that I have. I didn’t just get sweet parents and sweet siblings. I got three sweet grandparents who watched me grow up, supported me, loved me. That’s not normal, and it is way more than I deserve.


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