Happy Birthday, Grandpa

Today, My Grandpa would have been 80 years old. Today, we would have celebrated together. My 31st, his 80th, as we have celebrated together my entire life.

Today, we should be at my parent’s house, surrounded by family, eating cake and laughing. We should be opening presents. Grandpa should be asking for seconds or thirds on his cake, even though “he’d rather have pie” and Grandma should be shaking her head at him because he is ruining his diet.

Today, I am alone. Last year was the last birthday I would celebrate with my Grandpa. He was 79, and diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. He wasn’t feeling well by then, but he was in good spirits that day. He was smiling and laughing with Kat, and hugging me, telling me that he would see me when I came to visit him in Florida that winter. He died a month later, after he had gotten my Grandma to Flordia.

My Grandpa was the kind of Grandpa you read about in books, or see in movies. He always had a smile, a hug, a laugh. He listened, he made you fee seen and heard, like you mattered, whether you were a grown up or not. If I wanted to tell him all about a book I had just read, or a test I had just “not passed”, he was ready to listen. He wasn’t a person who listened with half with heart, either. He listened completely, with his whole being, like there was nothing more important than knowing what you had to say.

He always had candies in his pockets, that he would let us sneak. He loved living. He liked to build forts, go for nature walks, take a boat ride. I always felt like my Grandpa could build or learn or do anything he set his mind to. A person might think that was a childish thought, but it’s a belief I retained as I grew older. At his memorial service, I spoke, I wanted to make sure people knew who my Grandpa was. So many, many adults came up to me afterwards and told me they held the same belief about their friend.

He was always there. If you missed the bus, needed a listening ear, or a friend to sit with, Grandpa would be threre. He came to every school play, award, event that he was invited to. When I first started getting pregnant, I begged him to come back to visit if the baby was born in the winter. He hated to fly, but Grandpa said he would hop a plane and be there.

I’m not a vain person about turning older. I didn’t stop my birthdays at 29, I turned 30. I wasn’t worried about turning 35, or 40. I’ve loved birthdays for as long as I can remember. I’ve always celebrated birthday week. I don’t know how to celebrate this year. I don’t know how to do this without Grandpa. I may be another year older, I may be 31, but I sure don’t feel like celebrating.

Happy Birthday, Grandpa. I hope you are having the best party and enjoying cake, and pie today. I love you.

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