Reader note: my sister from my second mom called me last night to say our Paw Paw was in Hospice Care. I knew this call was coming and had been prepared for it for many years, as Paw Paw is 96 years old. He was more of a grandfather figure than my actual grandparents for a huge part of my life, and for that I will be eternally grateful. This is my goodbye letter to him.
Dear Paw Paw,
I know I won’t be able to write this without crying, but I will have to cry silently because my giant pandemic puppy, Appa Bear, does a BIG check-in when he sees my tears.
Melanie called last night to say it was almost time for you to leave this world. I knew why she was calling as soon as I saw her name on the phone. I am writing to share some of the memories I have of you, and how in one small way you made a huge difference in my life.
There were the many trips to Atlanta for Thanksgiving. We would load up in the green Integra Wednesday after school and drive through all the holiday traffic listening to classic rock. I cannot remember the name of the fancy Atlanta mall, but I do remember Mel and I LOSING her car there once. There were the many trips to the Highlands in the summer months. I think you played more golf than any other person I know. You were quite the hothead and drove that giant Cadaliac like a maniac. One time in the car, we were stuck in traffic so you pulled onto the shoulder and drove well over the speed limit with the confidence of a man who could do whatever he wanted. Your 50th wedding anniversary party. I will never forget the way you looked at Shirley, and the beautiful toast you made to her.
I am so glad you got to spend so much time with sweet Savanna Sundance while you all lived in Cashiers. I am sure you served as an amazing male role model for her. And you got to watch Mel shine as a great mom!
You gifted each grandchild stocks every Christmas. Because I grew up in a family that lived paycheck to paycheck, I knew nothing about investing. But that gift in 1998 helped me heal and feel safe in the most traumatizing time in my life. When your grandson walked out of the front door of our home saying he needed to “find himself” and he couldn’t do that with me, I was devastated, scared, and desperate to hold it together. I had spent a decade of my life with him and had no idea how to move forward. Against the advice of many financial planners, I liquidated the stocks you had gifted me for Christmas to pay down the loan on our home. There was no way on a salary of $25,000 that I could pay the mortgage alone, and I was also in graduate school. I got 2 roommates to move into the upstairs of the house, and with a side job on nights and weekends, I was able to stay put. I don’t know why it was so important for me not to have to move, but the idea of it terrified me. I still live in that same house, although it looks very different than it did in 1996. My son loves our home almost as much as I do and wants it to be gifted to him in our Will. This could always be his home if that is his wish later on (for now we need to get him out of the house and off to college!)
I love the fact we were pen pals for many years. Your handwriting in those letters was so eloquent. I don’t think they even teach cursive writing anymore. You were proud of me for finishing graduate school, supported my super tiny non profit when it was up and running with a scholarship for a girl to participate for an entire year. Your Christmas cards were always a special treat each year. It meant a lot to me that you wanted to stay in my life.
Know that when I am gardening in the Woods of Wild Azalea Lane, I will always think of you and be grateful for you being in my life.