Today is the first day that I’ve gotten to see my grandpa since he was released from the hospital. When I got to his house mid-afternoon he was dozing on the couch, like usual. I just sat in the chair and toyed around on my phone until he woke up. It was probably nearly a half hour.
We were watching a football game from last season. A couple of my younger cousins were in the room and we were talking as my grandpa woke up and sat up. It was Texas A&M VS Auburn. I was toying with the baby cousin of the family who is now 13 if I recall correctly. She asked me who I wanted to win and I said Louisville isn’t playing…I don’t care. And she said who do you think is going to win? I said well, Auburn is going to win. She said I doubt it, the game is almost over and they’re losing! I said let’s have “personal assistant for the day” bet then to which she agreed. As time was expiring, with Auburn ahead and TAMU trying to get back on top I told her to come sit with me because as soon as the clock expired I was going to teach her a valuable lesson. She sat on my left leg and leaned back against me and out of the corner of my eye I caught my grandpa crack a smile. As the final buzzer sounded, I said the lesson is that you should never bet on College football games in the middle of August. She was still confused. I finally confided that I had watched this very game probably about ten months ago and there was never any doubt in my mind as to who was going to arise victorious. This is my grandpa’s style. I don’t know how many times he has set me up to let me teach myself a lesson. His style of teaching me things from how to be a man, to how to get a turkey in shotgun range or how to set up a left hook to the liver has never been long-winded lectures. Even though anyone that knows the man can tell you that he can talk with the best of them. You can hardly get a word in at times. It’s driven me up the wall before. He’s always let me show him what I know, what I think, what I can do and then critiqued it and let me know how he would have done it to let me teach myself the lesson with being unsuccessful. Which is certainly not true for his relationship with everyone. But we have a whole different kind of bond. This man had just as much influence on me and just a big of a part in raising me as any person that has walked the earth. He’s not just my blood, he’s one of the best friends I’ve ever had.
After the game went off I moved over to the couch to sit beside him. We began to make light-hearted chat. This isn’t how I envisioned this going as I’ve dreaded this over the last 4 days. I pictured myself just breaking down and crying until I collapsed. My grandpa is 100% positively the most fearless man that I’ve ever known in my entire life. This is a former professional boxer from the roughest neighborhood in the #16 most populated metropolitan in nation. Trust me when I tell you that there is absolutely nothing in this world that scares him. I can’t conjure one memory of him ever being the least bit frightened about anything. However, even though it’s common with his generation, he’s not an emotional stonewall at all. He’s the kind of man to put his arm around you, hug you and tell you that he loves you and kiss you on the cheek. I’ve never left his house or gotten off the phone without him telling me that he loved me. It’s a really rare combination. He’s one of the most unique people that you could ever meet. Back to my point, he mentioned having cancer only in passing. He never showed any sign of hesitation or emotion towards it. And was very matter-of-fact about it. He looked me in the eyes and told me that the oncologist told him that he’s not going to live and that’s the bottom line. As I was eye locked with him, it took everything I had within me to not burst in tears or vomit. Hell, tears are running down my cheek as I type this. We talked about his hospital stay and his doctors and nurses and the trials and tribulations of spending a week in the hospital. Then conversation drifted on…
One of my younger cousins, my personal assistant, joined in on our conversation and asked what he was going to do with Wesley. The 1/2 Brittany 1/2 Beagle pup that he had been raising and hunting for the last several months. Which was almost offensive to me. She obviously doesn’t understand how to be tactful in this situation. But you don’t ask someone that is dying what they’re going to do with individual possessions. However, to be honest, I had been thinking about this dog somewhat in the last couple days as well. My grandpa is a truly gifted dog trainer and is nationally renowned. Now he’s down to two dogs and doesn’t even have a coonhound. Something that I was raised on. I’ve literally spent more than a thousand nights in the woods coonhunting. I just assumed that I’ll be taking his two dogs home with me when the time comes. There’s no need for them to stay there for my grandma to care for. The significance of the dog in question requires a little backstory which I’ll try to keep as brief as possible. When I was a kid, my grandpa had a dog named Susie that was 1/4 Brittany (Bird dog) and 3/4 Beagle (Rabbit dog) which was a hunter deluxe. Probably his favorite dog ever just because of the versatility. She ran loose around the house and kept varmints away from the chickens but she was an absolute ACE on anything we would be hunting. And she was extremely smart. She knows if we’re going hunting at night, she’s coonhunting. If we’re hunting fields, doze piles and fence rows, she’s hunting rabbits. If we’re in the woods during the day, she’s to tree squirrels. Although she was intended for and primarily a rabbit dog, she could absolutely do it all. Well literally every time I’ve seen my grandpa this year he’s talked about the progressions of this 1/2 Brittany 1/2 Beagle and how smart he is and how we’re going to get a couple beagle brood bitches so we can replicate that cross that made the famous Susie that he has a thousand stories about. A lot that I’m too young to remember. Well in the last few days I’ve thought about my grandpa’s dogs and what’s going to happen with them. And I promised myself that I will indeed go to whatever length that it takes to make sure I get that cross made and I’ll make damn good dogs out of the cross if it’s the last thing that I do. Back to my grandfather’s response to my cousin’s question about what was in the future for that dog. I was actually anxious to hear what he had to say as well. I knew that he was going to put that on me and say well Josh is taking him. He wouldn’t volunteer me for that even though I’m his protege in every sense, especially hunting/dog training. And he paused for a second as me, my grandpa, and my other cousin Steven (His namesake and the only other boy in the family) sat hip to hip to hip on the couch. Then he said “Well, I talked to the man that I got him from because he called me and told me that his littermate had gotten hit by a car and he was wanting to buy mine. But I told him that I wouldn’t sell him, but I would bring him back to him to have as long as he bred him to the next couple beagle bitches that came in heat. And when he makes that cross we’ll finally have that cross we’re working towards. We’ll have 1/4 brittany and 3/4 beagle. I won’t be around anymore but Josh and Steven will both get pups out of that cross that’s made. I figured that would be the easiest way to do things.” At this point I’m just staring straight ahead and trying to hold it in but tears are streaming down my face and I’m just silent. This is the only time that I couldn’t manage to hold them back. Words couldn’t come out of my mouth. Then he asked when my next day off work was and I told him Saturday and he said good, we’ll take our fishing poles. My heart melted.
I’m literally spending the last memories that I’ll ever make with someone that I love as much as anyone that has ever been born and I’m completely aware that these are the last memories. It’s so odd, heartbreaking and overwhelming. I never know what day I’m going to wake up and he’s no longer going to be there. But I know it’s coming. And not in the sense that it’s coming for everyone else. I know that probably no one will make it this far wading through stories, memories and conversations with someone they don’t know but I have to get it out. I have to write it down because my heart is breaking. There are so many things I want to do and say. But I don’t know what he feels like doing so I don’t have any control or ways to dictate that. He was noticeably weaker and more tired than usual. He laid back down soon after on the couch and drifted back asleep and I can’t wait to see him again. I’m going to make an attempt to spend every available moment I have with him while I can.
I’m sorry that this is so scatterbrained and out of sequence if anyone did make it through this but in all fairness, I’m an absolute wreck right now.