If you read this blog regularly: you know I adore my paternal granddaddy. The world called him Kirk. I was the one who got the privilege to call him granddaddy. Kirk was a builder. He worked with his hands his whole life. He helped build lots of stuff: houses, a dam, the Omani in Atlanta, my childhood house, and my room expansion in that house, too. 6 weeks before the end of the school year and before I was to start high school in the fall: he had a stroke. I was terrified and sad. He was in the hospital for a good while. In typical him fashion: he told me he was fine and it wasn’t a big deal. Two weeks before he was on his roof fixing a problem. I spent as much time as I could at the hospital with him. My parents, grandma, and he assured the nurses I was responsible and wouldn’t mess anything up. I didn’t.
I did sneak him Reese’s miniature peanut butter cups before he was cleared to have solid food, though. We never told anybody. Sorry, buddy, the whole world is going to know our secret…now. Somehow, I know he won’t mind. He got better and was able to go home. A few weeks later: he had another mini stroke. He had to go into a nursing home. He needed more care than grandma and we could give him. Watching him hurt and struggle gutted me. He had trouble talking because it hurt.
He talked to me, however. That summer he poured every lesson he could into his crackerjack. We would have deep conversations over cheeseburgers and Frosty’s. He LOVED chocolate. We both do. I had to get my chocoholic tendencies from somewhere. He is where they come from. Every time I have a Frosty I lift my spoon to the ceiling or sky and say cheers buddy. I do the same with crackerjacks. I called him buddy, often; because he was my very first buddy. About a month before he left physically: he asked me to stay with him, while everybody else went and got needed stuff for him. I did. He asked me to come sit beside him like we had done so many times over the course of my life. I was happy to do so.
He started to talk, probably, more than I’d ever heard him talk. Kirk wasn’t a big talker. He preferred to lead by example. It took me a few minutes to realize what he was telling me. He knew his time was short. I was very emotional. No, no, no, buddy. Don’t talk like that. He kept talking. He gave me a long list of stuff he wanted me to do. This list was what he wanted for me and my life. Only he, I, and my brother/journey partner know everything he told and asked of me. It will stay that way.
After he was done: he held me while I sobbed. While I sobbed he kept repeating: “I’m here. I’m right here.” He was and still is though not physically. He visits me in my dreams, often. It’s always to help me cope or deal with something that I’m struggling with. He says often “I’m here to give you the chance to have a meltdown.” He’s good at handling my meltdowns.
What I didn’t realize until I started thinking about writing this blog post and how much I wanted to share with the world about what he told and asked of me: he was teaching me how to live as he was nearing the end of his life, here. What a profound gift. Who gets the chance to have that blessing? That’s when I realized it was profoundly special for both of us and not something to be shared, publicly. He was giving me permission and confidence to live the biggest, fullest, world-changing life possible. He was telling me he loved and believed in me and I should do the same for myself.
Everything I’ve done and continue to do since that summer is about making him proud. I know he is. He helped me deal with the struggles of having CP and taught me, by example, how to thrive with a condition not asked for or wanted. I feel such responsibility to carry his legacy and name on well. He probably would scold me for putting too much pressure on myself to do that, but I can’t not.
It’s what he made me want to do for him. It’s a testament to how much I love and respect him. I’m so proud to be his granddaughter and crackerjack. It’s my privilege and thriving is the way I can honor him most. Buddy, I love you so much and I hope when you see where I want to go and do in this world: you say: “That a girl, crackerjack!” It took me some time to find myself, and get my feet under me, again; but we’re just getting started. That’s my promise to him and all of you.