When one thinks of his or her childhood, certain sounds, smells, memories, people no doubt come to mind. Someone once said, “God couldn’t be everywhere, so he made grandparents.” One of those grandparents who will be forever in my memory, who I was blessed enough to know, is Grandpa Doug.
Growing up, my sister and I had our fair share of babysitters over the years. But as nice as they may have been, no one could ever compare to Grandpa Doug. He was our favorite. When I was in elementary school, I would go to my grandma and grandpa’s house afterwards and he would always pick me up. As I got older, I got to walk. First, he’d let me walk a quarter of the way and met me. Then, a little older, halfway in the park. Finally, I got to walk all the way there, but he’d always watch out for me, and grandma would have a snack waiting for me to devour.
Sometimes he’d come to our house and we’d sit together watching the Price is Right. He taught me how to use a typewriter before computers were ever around, and could have very well jump-started my love of writing. Eventually, they gave it to me and I remember how much fun I had typing anything and everything, just clicking away happily at the keys.
He took my sister and I to McDonald’s every once in a while. He’d buy us ice cream and then watch as we wreaked havoc on the playplace, running up every slide, climbing through every opening. He’d pick us up for church on Saturdays when my mom had to work the evening shift. The man was there for us non-stop.
One time I will never forget is when my mother FINALLY made us stop going to a babysitter and it was one of the first times I got to stay home alone. The house was locked up, and I had the TV on when the doorbell rang. You never open the door for anybody, I knew that. Being the tough little fighter that I was, what do you think I did? If your guess is that I grabbed the nearest phone and hid behind the TV you’re correct. I called up grandma and grandpa. Someone had rang the doorbell and I was scared, I told him. And Grandpa, bless his heart, was at my doorstep in 10 minutes.
Which was when we both discovered the “Sorry we missed you” tag from the electric company. How embarassing…
Grandpa was un-phased. He simply smiled, “See you later, sweetheart.”
Grandpa took us places, taught us things, helped us out. He came to the basketball games even when I didn’t play much (Thanks, coach). But besides being my amazing grandfather, he was also an incredible man.
He fought in two wars, raised 5 kids including my mother, helped take care of and loved 5 more grandchildren. He was a loving husband to my dear grandma. He spent his free time working at the police station. Despite being strong enough to handle all that, he was also the sweetest man I’d ever met. He treated us all like gold. He was loved by all who had the privilege of meeting him.
The night we lost him was very painful. I was 17 years old, a senior in high school. It was about 3 o’clock the morning before the second semester was supposed to start when the phone rang. Never a good sign. I was startled and afraid so I picked up the phone and listened. It was my uncle. Grandpa had gotten up to go to the bathroom and had fallen. It was his heart. He wasn’t breathing. He was being rushed to the hospital. My mom and dad got up and headed to the hospital. I went up to my sister’s room because there was no way I was going back to sleep. I knocked and asked if she was OK. She burst into tears. We both knew it wasn’t good. We both cried and hugged each other for a minute til I went back to my room. Sometime later, mom and dad came back. My dad came down to my room and delivered the news that grandpa had passed. Lots of tears followed.
That was 7 years ago, today.
Losing anyone is never easy and I know that losing Grandpa Doug hurt a lot for my whole family. My mom, his daughter. My grandma, his wife of 60+ years. My uncles, aunts, cousins. Even as I write this, my eyes fill with tears. It was truly a painful moment in time, but I don’t think he would want me to focus on the one moment that hurt. He would surely want us to remember him for the time he spent with us, for what he had to teach and what we learned from him. He would want us to remember the walks we had, or how he had us cracking up at every Christmas party. How his favorite kind of ice cream was the Caramel Cashew from Culver’s. How he read every article I wrote in the high school newspaper. That the corner where the community college runs into Burger King was his least favorite intersection because of all the obnoxious traffic, or so he commented when he would give us a ride home. No, he would want us to smile when we think of him.
And the hero he truly was.
It’s hard to believe that 7 years have passed. I do miss him. I wish he had been able to see me graduate high school. College. I think of him today and wonder what he would have thought of random things that have happened since then. I would like to think that he would be proud.
I miss you, Grandpa Doug. I won’t forget you. And neither will the family you so dearly loved.