Saturday, January 16, 2010

Miss you Boppa

I'm about two hours early with this post (even though I'm in Oklahoma, I'm going by current Arizona time here), but I wanted to get it out now. I've been trying to put on a brave face today, but needless to say it has been tough. There have been a few breakdowns, mostly small with one big one, and it would be foolish to think that tomorrow will pass without any more.

I posted a status on my Facebook page today about how two years ago (January 16, 2008) I climbed Pinnacle Peak in Scottsdale, AZ. I was on my own, and I was sad. For several days I had been in Scottsdale, the majority of my time being spent at a hospice center as I watched my grandfather (who will for the remainder of this post lovingly be referred to as "Boppa" as that was what I called him) lose his battle with Sarcoma. I take that back actually: lose his battle with sarcoma. I hardly feel the word deserves capitalization because I hate to give it that much power. For those who are unaware, sarcoma is a particularly brutal form of cancer that attacks either the bones or soft tissue. In Boppa's case, he had a very rare form that attacked both soft tissue and bone. It was also unique in that it appeared to be slow-growing, so the doctors said we had time. I wish they had more experience in sarcoma because they would have known that his type was in fact the opposite: It spread like wildfire despite having all the properties of something that takes its time.

Anyway, on January 16th I climbed Pinnacle Peak by myself. I only climbed to the highest point before turning around, but it was a way for me to clear my head at least a little bit. I had hit an emotional breaking point earlier in the day, and for that reason I was sent away to recharge my batteries for a bit before coming back to the hospice. It's funny thinking back on it now. I could have done anything, but I chose to hike up the mountain. Below was a view of Troon North (for you non-golfers, it's a fairly famous golf course), and I even snapped a few pictures of the view with my crappy cell phone camera. I'd seen it before, but this day everything felt different. It felt like something was preparing me for what was next.

That evening at the hospice after everyone left, Grandma and I ordered a pizza and began our evening vigil. She was so wonderful in making sure that someone was with Boppa 24 hours a day, and I have to think that he appreciated that gesture. Our sleeping arrangements weren't ideal, but we lived: She slept in a chair that leaned back, and I was in an insanely uncomfortable mattress on the floor at the foot of Boppa's bed (and to this day I pray that mattress wasn't used for patients, because if so those poor poor people. I was 24-years-old and it made my hips feel like they needed some replacing).

At about 12:30 AM on January 17th, I awoke to Boppa's breathing, which had become very loud and erratic. I remember sitting up in that sleepy haze to make sure it was him I heard and not Grandma. Seeing it was him, I laid back down and wondered how on earth I'd get back to sleep with that awful sound. But I was still in that haze, and I suddenly began to drift off. It was because those breaths had stopped.

Half asleep, my mind didn't register that the loudness had stopped, but I was coherent enough to acknowledge that a nurse had walked into the room to check on him. It was at that moment that the pieces began to fall into place in my brain: The nurse looking at him, her then waking up my grandma. My grandma saying to me, "Katie, it's over."

It was just after 12:35 AM.

I didn't cry at first. Instead, I started shaking like a leaf and continued to do so as I got up, got dressed, and began making necessary phone calls. In fact, looking back I'm surprised how few tears I shed that morning. There were some, absolutely, but not what I would have expected (though after getting about two hours of sleep and waking up to begin planning a memorial service, wake, and funeral, the tears became increasingly hard to keep at bay). And a million tears have been shed since.

Today, two years later, I can still feel the pain just as strongly as it was then. People say that time heals grief, and quite frankly I beg to differ. Sure, you move on and don't think about it as much. You're on occasion able to think about it without the threat of tears. But the heartache is still there. I still miss Boppa with every fiber of my being, and not a day goes by that he's not on my mind. For those who don't know me, you have to understand that I didn't have a father figure growing up (I didn't even get a real dad until I was 20, so having a dad is a rather new thing to me). Boppa WAS my dad, for all intents and purposes. I truly did lose a parent.

There are so many things I wish he was here for. He was alive to see me get engaged, but he missed my wedding. He and my dad were both supposed to walk me down the aisle, and his absense was very much felt for Dad and me. He missed my cousin's wedding too, and everyday since the day we moved into our new house last month I can't help but wish he were here to see the hubs and I as homeowners. I would have loved his help doing "fix it" projects (no one was better), and I would have loved to hear his thoughts. And yes, I do believe he was there for all of this in some way, shape, or form, visiting from a better place or at least looking in. And while the thought is a small comfort, I can't help but feel selfish and wish he were here in the flesh. Anyone who has ever lost a loved one understands this, I know.

I just pulled up an old blog of mine that I had two years ago. In September, 2007, we were in the middle of Boppa's sarcoma fight. I wrote a post that ended up being a "battle cry" of sorts: During a hospital stay it was posted on his door for everyone to read. My mom and my grandma sent it to everyone they knew, and frankly I never had so many blog readers as I did for that post. I want to share the final few sentences of it here:

Boppa has always been a rock in my life, a brave man who provided well for his family. My family is one full of love, and Boppa is its heart. I can remember being a small child and being asked to draw my daddy in preschool and elementary school. Not having a daddy at that time (in fact, I didn’t get an “official” daddy until I was of the legal age), I always drew my Boppa instead. I remember drawing a picture of him in his workshop in his basement, where he always seemed at home. I also remember drawing him on a big green blob that was supposed to be a golf course (I’ve never been the most artistic person in the world, so sue me). Again, he always seemed more at home than ever on big green blobs.
Boppa, get back to that big green blob. It’s where you belong.

My hero is a good man, and when I graduated from college he gave me the best advice anyone has ever offered: “If you think you’re having a bad day today, just remember that one year from now you’ll be even more stressed out, and you won’t remember what you were stressing about today.” So true. My hero is Boppa.
I love you, Boppa. I miss you so much, and I pray wherever you are that you know how much love is radiating out to you from down here (there are lots of people besides me who love you).
Kate and Boppa, Halloween 1994 (or the two of us just before my 21st birthday on my profile photo):

1 comment:

  1. I'm sorry to hear about your loss and your pain. I will say that time heals things, as I'm sure you know. I wrote a remembrance post about my Gramma a while back. Perhaps, you would like to read it.