By Cristan Shaffer
The everlasting bond between a grandfather and his grandsons
My father died on Cinco de Mayo 2017 which was ironic to me as he loved nothing better than a good Mexican meal. He had a few Mexican restaurants he enjoyed in our area but nothing made him happier than preparing his own individual Mexican meals for our family, I can remember him preparing the meals all day and using every knife and pot and pan he and my mother had collected over the years.
Making the most of his time
When my father found out he was sick and dying his one wish was to see his two oldest grandsons graduate high school and his youngest graduate middle school, all in May of 2018. This was not to be. However, he spent his last months being as involved with them and their activities as much as possible. I don’t think he missed one of my son’s football games that long championship season which started out blazing hot in July of 2016 and ended on a bitterly cold night in December of 2016. My father spent hours with my oldest nephew tinkering with my nephew’s first car and showing him how to use all of his tools in the garage. He was even able to attend my youngest nephew’s baseball game a mere two weeks before he passed. He ate popcorn and hot dogs and a drank a big Sprite just like he had done for 10 plus years supporting his grandsons and their baseball teams. He always insisted on parking his camp chair right behind the batter box so he could see everything. Even if he was in the way of anyone trying to get around him. He didn’t care as long as he had the best seat in the house to cheer them on. He spent time with them talking about being a better man, what to do when he was gone and sharing his recipes.
We knew he would be passing soon as the cancer was taking over and his pain was unbearable. His wonderful angel of a hospice nurse would whisper to us that the end was coming any day and took her time with all of us helping us to understand the process. We watched him get thinner and thinner, his skin became gray and he turned into a frail cancer patient right before our eyes. The hospice chaplain came to my parent’s home and spent time with my father and the 3 boys helping to prepare them for the inevitable. Something they cherish to this day.
The last few days
The Saturday before he passed was my son and nephew’s junior prom; he was extremely sick that day and I thought for sure this was the day. I remember praying for him not to die on this day of fun and joy for the boys and later thinking how selfish I must have seemed as if a high school dance was more important than the end of my father’s life. We quickly called Hospice and they came right out to assess him; by the time the on-call nurse arrived my father had perked up and was joking with the nurse. He was able to see both boys all dressed up; the twinkle back in his eye as he laughed with them about behaving themselves that night.
My dad enjoyed a few more days with our family and even had one last dinner with all of his friends at my parent’s home where they ate delicious food, had lots of hearty laughs and even a drink or two. He died two days later with the hospice nurse and me in the room with him as he took his last breath. Nothing can prepare you for that moment. Our biggest task was telling the grandsons who were in school. My uncle took the task of going to the youngest’s school while my sister called her oldest son in high school. My son was off campus taking a final AP exam and couldn’t have his phone on him, my nephew insisted on driving to the exam venue and waiting for him to come out so he could tell him in person. Later my son told us he could feel my dad during the end of the exam and knew he was gone. That was the bond he had with his grandsons; a bond that is everlasting.
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