Tuesday, April 24, 2012

I'm Back.

Well when I signed off six weeks ago, I never thought I would be back so soon. The reason for my sudden return is bittersweet. As I mentioned in my not-so-final post, I had some family issues going on and I wanted to focus on spending time with the loved one in question.

It is with deep regret that I report the passing of my grandfather. He went Home on Sunday morning, which ironically, was his 75th birthday. Yep, if I didn't already know it, I can definitely say that cancer really, really sucks. As do severe heart conditions and diabetes.

Ah the petulant two year old that was me!
My grandfather meant the world to me. He was so much more than just that--he was in many ways my father, but also a cheerleader, sounding board, and mentor. I was his "best girl" according to my mom--the first grandchild in the family and only granddaughter.

I spent many a day at his house. He read to me as a child and took me to the library. I remember apologizing once for having overdue fines and he simply said, "You keep reading and I'll keep paying them."
He was a voracious reader himself. He grew up in the North Georgia mountains, the son of a sharecropper. He would read under his covers with a flashlight, so that he wouldn't get in trouble for not sleeping. Apparently he didn't fool anyone. One night, the community's doctor drove by the house and saw the faint light  from my grandpa's bedroom. When next he saw my great-grandfather he asked, "Was there someone ailing at your house? I saw a light on." My great-grandpa, replied, "No--that's just John reading."

My grandfather was also the first person in his family to go to college. He was dedicated, that's for sure. He attended Berry College in Rome, Georgia initially and paid his tuition by working on the college's farm. He ended up graduating from Appalachian State University in North Carolina and went on to be a shop teacher and school administrator for over thirty years. His impact was felt well beyond just me and his family. He was known as "Big John" amongst the students (he was 6'5 and quite imposing). Despite his size, he never used his paddle (although it was quite scary looking on its nail in the wall). After he retired (twice), he was never forgotten. He was the type of guy that you couldn't take anywhere--he was bound to run into someone he knew or taught.

But his greatest impact was on his family. He cared for me on sick days, bussed me around before I was able to drive, played basketball with me in the driveway when I was on the middle school team, and was generally the best grandpa/dad ever. I danced my father/daughter dance with him at my wedding--to "Sweet Caroline", of course, since he sang it to me as a child. I only found out after the fact that he despised dancing and had refused to even when he and my grandmother were young. He never said a word because that was the type of person he was. I know was lucky to have such a relationship with him--most of my friends had older grandparents. One of the more memorable comments came in college when one of my friends saw a picture of him and said, "Wow! Your grandpa is hot!"

In more recent years, he was a driving force behind my writing. He was constantly cheering me on, thrilled for every request I received, and just generally proud of me. He always believed in me, even when other family and friends thought I was just scribbling away my time. When my laptop died and I was left without one for almost a year, he organized the family so they could get me a new one. "You have to be able to write," he said and was so proud to have helped me get back on track. I wish more than anything that I could have been published before he died, but there's not much I can do about that now.

But I can come here and talk about what a positive influence he was over me. He deserves a post a dedicated in his honor, that's for sure. He was so humble and so good. The definition of a true gentleman. So many times over the last two days, I have wished that this was all a dream--that I'll wake up and he'll still be here.

I hope that posting this will be a small step towards exercising my grief which once everything is said and done, I'll have to deal with fully. Right now, I've got it in a box labeled "Category 5 Nuclear Meltdown"!

On the positive side, I will make sure I get published now. I was quite adrift before this happened, but I think that once I have sorted through all of my emotions, I will have new focus. If getting publishing means writing ten, twenty, or thirty novels over the next fifty years of my life, I will do it. My grandpa would expect nothing less. He might not be with me here and but he's in Heaven (which I firmly believe in), and I know that he'll be cheering the day that the first copies show up on the shelves. And of course, that book will be dedicated to him.


  1. Caroline, I stumbled onto you today, just in time for your return. I never had a chance to know my grandfathers (I have a vague positive memory for one from when I was a toddler) so I read in awe of what you had with yours. The loss of something you never had is a different pain from when someone so deeply embedded in who you are is ripped away. My sincerest condolences, Pamela

  2. Thank you, Pamela--and welcome to the blog. I promise to be more cheerful in future. :-)
    I know I am so lucky to have had my grandfather for 30 years when so many people haven't had that chance. But as you said, the hurt is different when you lose something of great value.
    I just have to keep reminding myself that he didn't have to suffer long and that's always a blessing no matter the outcome.

  3. My condolences Caroline, what a huge loss. I too didn't know my grandfathers half as well as you - one died before I was born and the other when I was 17, and I lived in different cities to both. But I'm no stranger to grief and how debilitating it can be.

    What a courageous attitude to already be taking - to dedicate yourself to succeeding with your dream in your grandfather's name.

    I look forward to seeing your books on the shelves too!

  4. Oh, Caroline. What a beautiful post. I'm so sorry to hear about your grandfather. I know the hole in your heart will never be filled again, but you will find a way to work around the hole and keep going.

    Cancer does, without any doubt in the furthest reaches of my mind, absolutely suck. I've lost too many family members to the devastating sickness. Now, all I can do, is consider myself blessed that we had such a special relationship. However, I didn't get to that "blessed" stage for many months. I spent a majority of time in the "incredibly ticked off" stage as well. It's different for everyone.

    Thinking of you.

  5. My condolences. I lost my grandmother--my Mimi--two years ago, and it's still sometimes painful. Like your grandfather, Mimi was a big cheerleader when it came to my writing. Before I actually knew how to write, I would dictate stories to her and she would write them down and help me staple them together for me. While in the car running errands with my mom, she would make up stories with me, and whenever she came to visit with a new stuffed animal for me, she always had a story about finding the little guy at a store. She was a wonderful woman, and it sounds like your grandfather was a great guy as well.

    I'll keep you in my prayers.