I moved away from Hawaii when I was ten. Ever since then, one of the best parts about coming home was visiting my grandparents. Grandpa would give me an epic hug. It was a long lingering hug filled with intense amounts of love and joy. As he hugged me he would always say, "I love this girl!" When I was a kid, I would wriggle away anxious to run and play with my cousins. But as I got older, I really looked forward to those hugs and I squeezed him back longer.
We all get to know our grandparents in two stages: as a kid and as an adult. I was lucky enough to get to know Grandpa in both stages.
To me, as a kid, he was the bravest man in the world when he rushed in and killed a centipede that had invaded the tent I had made with my sister and cousin in the living room. He wielded his centipede scissors so fearlessly. He was the clean upper all my sodas and juice cans...sometimes while I was still drinking them. If I grumbled at him about my missing can, he'd grumble right back and I'd go get a new drink.
As an adult, he became my favorite person to sit with and talk story. I loved hearing stories about his shipyard days and how he knew he had to get out when they started bringing in computers. I still don't know the whole story about how he met and married Grandma because he was always going off on tangents. Once, he called me when I was living in Portland just to talk story. It was one of those rare times that I didn't have anywhere to be and we talked for over an hour. For the life of me, I can't remember what we talked about for that long. But I remember it being a good conversation and I wasn't in a rush to end it.
I stopped calling my grandparents about five years ago. Their hearing was starting to go and they could never figure out who I was when I called. "Who is this? What? I can't hear you." They'd pass the phone to each other to see if either of them had better luck hearing me as I yelled my name over and over. Finally, Grandpa would laugh and say, "I'm sorry I can't hear you." Then they'd hang up.
So I began writing to them. I wrote letters and sent cards. I told them about my life, my jobs, and what I was up to. I sent them a photo album when my husband and I first got to Italy so they could see our house and where we were living. I have...had...a ritual when I travel[ed]. The first thing I did was search for postcards to send. I wanted them to know that no matter where I was in the world, I was thinking of them. Like I said, it was a ritual...so it's a constant reminder of my loss when I have to stop myself and put one of the postcards back.
My grandpa was so special to me. He saved the best version of himself for his grandchildren and I admired that about him. I have always thought fondly of him and I always will. I wish I could be there to say goodbye to him in person today, but this will have to be my goodbye instead.