This Is It. I’ll Never See You Again. I Pray Those Words Aren’t True.
Two years ago, I excitedly told my grandfather about a job opportunity in Cambodia. His response was two-fold:
“I would never go there, but if that’s what you want to do, I’ll support you,” which was quickly followed by, “If you go, I’ll never see you again.”
Pop was 84 at the time. He had been certain of his impending death for close to a decade. While the last sentence saddened me, I didn’t take it seriously.
Seven months after I moved overseas, my Mom called to tell me Pop had been losing weight drastically and suddenly. Even though I wasn’t scheduled to visit home for another five months, she recommended I move my trip up. Just in case.
So, I went home. I was terribly homesick and eager to spend a month with my family. I went to the movies with Pop, and was home to celebrate his 85th birthday. We had a blast, as usual. Even though he was thin, I knew I’d see him again. I told him, I’d be home in six months, packed my bags, and went back to Cambodia.
Earlier this year, I once again went home. Pop was thriving. He wasn’t driving anymore, but he had a bachelor pad in a senior apartment building and was still bowling once a week. Again, we went to the movies, dined out, gossiped, and hung out. Once again, I told Pop I’d see him in six months, packed my bags, and traveled to the other side of the world.
Five weeks ago, my mother called me panicked. I was scheduled to go home for Thanksgiving. Pop was in the ICU, things looked grim. She asked me to think about coming home early. I did. One of my biggest fears is being on the other side of the world, unable to get home, during a family emergency. When I boarded the plane, Pop was deteriorating. I said a prayer and hoped to land in time to see him.
When I arrived, Pop had been moved out of ICU and was doing better. We stopped at the hospital on my way home from the airport. His face lit up as he saw me walk through the door, bedraggled and exhausted after 24 hours of travel.
I have spent the last 5 weeks with my beloved grandfather as he adjusts to living with my parents and hospice care. He is the energizer bunny. Despite his frailties and heart conditions, he is a fighter. For a long time, the family has been convinced he’ll outlive us all.
Pop & I celebrated all of our old rituals. We went to the movies. We conspired to get rides out of my mother. We made inappropriate jokes. We ate dinners out. We laughed. We watched a lot of television. And, we played cards.
Last night, I had to say goodbye to my Pop. For the first time, when he said, “This is it. I’ll never see you again,” I believed him. This terrifies me. I sobbed. I understand all of the reasons why I have to go back to Cambodia, but my heart is aching. I’m sitting at the boarding gate with tears in my eyes.
Here’s hoping that Pop is the energizer bunny and he’ll be waiting for me in six months time.