It's Been One Year Since My Grandfather Died And It's Still Hard To Believe He's Not Around

It's Been One Year Since My Grandfather Died And It's Still Hard To Believe He's Not Around

Reflecting on a year without him.

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When I was born, my mom swore she heard him playing the harmonica in the hallway. Even though he had left his instrument at home, the thought of him standing by, waiting for me to come into the world was a sweet memory.

It's been a year since he passed away, and it's still hard to believe that he isn't around. My Bumpa, the guy who used to make us pancakes for breakfast whenever we visited, the man who taught me to fish, the person who gave the best hugs, was one of those people who you thought would live forever. He was old, but he had so much spirit.

He was possibly the sweetest man I've ever known. What other grandpa would let two little girls play hairdresser for hours, letting us give him munchkin ponytails while we sat on his shoulders?He took us on boat rides and let us drive around the lake. He made fires in the backyard so we could roast marshmallows. It was always exciting getting to visit him up in Maine. He showed me how to be patient and compassionate, even when it's difficult

.Bumpa was quite particular too. He loved "The Price Is Right" more than anything – he watched it so often that he basically knew all the prices of the products. He drank milk with every meal,even though it made him sneeze like crazy. He drank his coffee in the same mug, and read the paper in the same order every day, saving the comics for last because they were his favorite. He showed me that routines and organization are good.

He joined the military when he was young and didn't get to finish high school. They held an honorary graduation ceremony a few years ago for him and his classmates. We all went to celebrate him, and we cheered when he crossed the stage. He showed me perseverance and determination and sacrifice.

Bumpa was very musical. I would always catch him humming, whistling, or singing. He had a panpipe and bongos, but his favorite instrument was the harmonica. He was the best harmonica player I've ever heard. He loved to play, and I loved to listen. One year for my birthday, I got a harmonica just like him. He never got to teach me to play, but one day, I hope to learn.

It hurts to know that I never got to say goodbye. I had no idea the last time I saw you that it would be the last time. It's sad that I won't be able to see you when we visit Maine, that I don't get to stay in your house on the lake anymore. I have so many wonderful memories, but it hurts to know there won't be any more to make.

Even though I'll miss you, I know that I'll always remember your hugs, your boating hat, and the way you called me "dear." You were a wonderful grandpa, and I was lucky to have you in my life. Thank you to the best boat captain, veteran, harmonica player, and fisherman. Thank you for all the memories, Bumpa.

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Dear Mom, Now That I'm Older

A letter to the woman who made me the woman I am today.
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Dear Mom,

Now that I'm older, I definitely appreciate you a lot more than I did as a kid. I appreciate the little things, from the random text messages to constantly tagging me on Facebook in your "funny" photos and sending me pins of stuff I like on Pinterest. Now that I'm older, I can look back and realize that everything I am is all because of you. You've made me strong but realize it's okay to cry. You've shown me how a mother gives everything to her children to give them a better life than she had, even when she's left with nothing. And, most importantly you've taught me to never give up and without this, I would not be where I am today.

Mom, now that I'm older, I realize that you're the best friend I'm ever going to have. You cheer me on when I try new things and support me in deciding to be whatever person I want to be. Thank you for never telling me I can't do something and helping me figure out ways to be the best woman I can be. Your love for me is unconditional. They say true, unconditional love can only come from God, but mom, I think you're a pretty close second.

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Now that I'm older, I don't get to see you as much. But not seeing you as much just makes the times I do get to see you the absolute best, and I look forward to it every time. Now that I'm older, I'm not going to live at home. But, I promise to always come back because I know the door is always open. Your house is always going to be my home, and no other place is going to be the same.

Now that I'm older, I realize how much I miss you taking care of me. I miss you making me dinner, making sure I was doing well in school, and taking me to endless appointments. I miss you waking me up for school and then waking me up again because I didn't listen the first time.

But, Mom, now that I'm older, I can see all that you've done for me. I can look back and see how big of a brat I was but you still loved me (and let me live) anyways. I can understand why you did certain things and frankly, you're one bada** of a woman.

To have you as my mom and my best friend has been the best thing that has ever happened to me. So, Mom, now that I'm older, thank you, for everything.

Love,

Your Daughter

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There Will Never Be A Home Like Your Grandparents' House

Over the river and through the woods to grandmother's house we go.

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I didn't realize how essential families were to the holidays until I spent the holidays missing someone who wasn't there.

My grandpaMadelyn Neal

On Christmas Day, I went to my grandmother's home in small-town Kentucky to celebrate. I was particularly worried about how empty the house would feel without my grandfather. I couldn't help but think of what I would have gotten him for Christmas, his favorite catch-phrases that I would have heard non-stop, and even what he would have ordered at Domino's (yes, our traditional Christmas meal is takeout).

But despite it all, I had a nice Christmas, and it seemed as though maybe he wasn't as far away as he previously seemed.

Wedding photosMadelyn Neal

In the short weeks after he passed, I kept waiting to "feel his presence" or a sign from him, as everyone always says you will no doubt feel. That said, I realized that it was the things he left behind that really helped me to feel closer to him.

When we sat down to dinner, with his customary seat left open for him, it seemed to everyone at the table that for a moment, he was there with us.

When we made a fire in his fireplace and began to listen to the crackle, I could almost hear the typical accompanying snoring coming from his corner of the couch.

His go-to fishing pole on the deck of his pond seemed as if it was just resting after hours of use.

The next morning, when I went outside to feed his deer their daily cracked cornmeal, I swore they were listening for his whistle that signaled the dinner bell.

There truly is no place like grandmother's house.

Me and my grandmotherMadelyn Neal

There is nothing that soothes the soul better than taking on the task of feeding his deer friends, looking at old pictures and even trying on my grandmother's old wedding dress and mom's old prom dresses.

Wearing my grandmother's wedding dress.Madelyn Neal

In the spirit of New Year's resolutions, find your happy place, listen to the quiet and you'll find both yourself and your lost loved ones there. When the clock chimed at night, I felt the most at peace I have felt in a long time. I can't wait for the next visit to see my grandmother, because I know every time I visit, not only will I enjoy watching our favorite movies, learning how to knit and eating our delicious family specialties, but I'll also welcome the comforting feeling that what we have lost isn't lost, it's just not as visible as we would like.

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