My Papa died three and a half years ago. I still miss him.
I went down to visit my Gram and it's funny how pain recedes, but often flashes so fresh in certain instances.
Gram still keeps his sweater hanging off the back of the chair. Greg, their neighbor, who died last year after a long, painful struggle with bone cancer, used to call him "pinky" because of it. Gram also has his ashes in the house, and his leopard-print Snuggie that my sister and I bought him because he was always cold.
Three and a half years ago, I talked to my Papa the day before I left for Burning Man. He was in the hospital, but moving to a rehab center. He sounded in good spirits. I told him to feel better, and that I loved him.
And then I went to my favourite week of the year, to Home. I thought of him, but I wasn't worried. He was getting better.
Thursday morning, while I biked with my good friend Rachelle to the Black Rock City Farmers Market, to much on carrots and pickled cauliflower and laugh and flirt and smile and be free, my dear Papa died.
Gram was woken in the middle of the night, "Come quick; he's doing poorly." She sat by his side, watching her husband of so many years, of so much love and adoration, pass. He was unconscious, but she held his hand, whispering, "I love you." In reply, he squeezed her hand.
That night, while my Papa rest in a funeral home somewhere, and my family members suffered, I biked deep into the playa, shimmering in sparkles. I went to the temple and wrote on the wall. "Papa, I don't want you to be in pain anymore. Please get stronger and happy. I love you." It was impossible for me to know that he had died. He was already gone. Without cell phone service, reality was lost.
I left the playa, full of love and light. While Rachelle was driving, I called my mother.
"Is everyone okay?"
"How was it?"
"Is everyone alive?"
"Did you have fun?"
"Mom - did anyone die?"
With that, my world collapsed. My beloved Papa...The pain ripped through my whole body as I began bawling with a force that left me feeling ill.
I texted my boss, who was so understanding and told me to take all the time I needed. I went home, and cried, and washed my clothes, and cried. My sister flew to NY and we drank and I cried and I cried.
I flew to Florida to visit my Gram; she was holding up well. I slept in my Papa's side of their bed but couldn't really sleep. I'd wake up at 4 or 5am every day and head out for long runs, five, six hours. I'd stop and fill my water bottle in parks along A1A, and cry. I'd hold it up in front of her, and play Rummicube, helped her go through his stuff. It was just so sad how much love she had for all his items, when I knew it would go to a thrift store where no one would care about it or know what a sweet man he had been. I hugged my Gram and tried to keep in most of my tears as we threw away medication, old shoes, and rearranged things. She was keeping busy.
When I got to the airport, they told me my flight was cancelled. I had to get back to NY the next day; I had a presentation at work. More than that, all the pain began leaking. I bawled at the ticket counter. Somehow I got on a plane and got home.
"My papa died," I told the guy on the plane next to me.
"I'm sorry about your father."
"No, he was my grandfather. And he was wonderful."
And he was. I miss him still, every day. I wish I could get a sloppy kiss on the cheek from him, give him a hug, hear his thick British accent. Even in death, love still doesn't die.
I love you, Papa.