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Page history last edited by PBworks 13 years, 1 month ago

My Grandfather, The Storyteller


From about the time I can remember, my grandfather has always been the cornerstone of my extended family. "Paw Paw", as we call him, was the base of a support system that raised my father and six other children through some pretty tough times. A product of the "Greatest Generation", my grandfather always had plenty of colorful stories to tell all of his grandchildren. Stories about wars, hunting, the Great Depression, running a grocery store, and many other fascinating tales. He was a wonderful storyteller, and always had my counsins and me enthralled. My grandfather almost had a mystique about him, as he would sit outside in the garage and smoke cigars, telling stories to whoever would listen. At family get togethers he would alway say the prayer, gathering together all the different families of his children. Paw Paw was a unifying force.


Two summers ago, my grandfather would suffer his first stroke and be hospitalized for the first time in a long time. I was old enough to know that it was very serious, but in my mind he was indestructable. As old as he was at the time, he was not the type that was in and out of the hospital a whole lot, so it startled the family. He was in seemingly good health for a person of his age. Classic of Paw Paw, he was released ahead of schedule as he made a quick and thorough recovery, adding to his immutable aura.


After his second stroke that summer, he was hospitalized for a much longer stint. Although he was cooperative, my family could tell it angered him to have to be taken care of by nurses for the first time in his life. That had forever been his role in the family, to take care of the rest of his children and their families. His progress was slow and painstaking, but he eventually made a full recovery.


His third stroke was unpredicted and sudden, causing him to be rushed to the hospital for the third time that summer. Due to his relapse, Paw Paw lost the motor skills required to talk. When I visited him with my brother, it was like stepping into another world. Walking into his room and seeing him on a hospital bed was surreal, to say the least. But even then, I thought, hoped and prayed that he would make a recovery. I returned back to Austin to start the Fall semester, which was good for me to focus my energy elsewhere. When my brother called me, I knew what it was before he even told me: my grandfather had passed away.


The conversation was brief and I didn't cry right away. I got pretty choked up thinking about it, but I didn't cry. I made it throught the rest of my school day without crying. When I finally got home, though, I cried for an hour. The thought that I would never again speak to my grandfather hit me like a ton of bricks. Even through all the hospital stays and all the bad news, I still held on to the fact that he would be fine in the end. Paw Paw always came through.


Not this time.


I had an epiphany that day. I realized that in the days to come I would have to experience many more feelings of terrible loss before I die. For the first time, I truly imagined how much pain I would feel to lose my parents or my brothers or one of my friends. Everything seemed a bit more visceral and ephemeral that day, a little less eternal. If my grandfather, the most steadfast person in a young boy's mind, could be taken away, then everything would eventually be taken from me. It was a very frightening realization, that moment when reality rips your heart out and leaves you sad and alone.


I really felt the void at our first family gathering, when it was time to say the prayer. It seemed to sting everyone at the same time, that Paw Paw would no longer there to unify all the families. But I had a lengthy talk with my mother about all the memories of Paw Paw that i will carry with me until I die. His legacy will thrive in each of the lives that he has enhanced through the memories that we all share of him. His fingerprints are everywhere. I just look around at gatherings and notice all the different families that are building their own support systems due to his constant support that was passed down to his children's children.


Although life is fleeting, we still have the opportunity to leave lasting impressions on the people around us and create memories that will last a life time.

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