Picture this: A young girl, short blonde hair, white puffy jacket, wrapped up tight against the cold, pink pants tucked into white sneakers. An older man holding on to her hand, gray hair and red jacket, slowing his longer strides to match her small steps. An amused smile on his face as he listens to her chatter on. They walk slowly, but the girl is abuzz with excitement, pulling against his hand to reach their destination.
Up ahead is the neighborhood park and within, a mountain lies. A rocky challenge, with treacherous toeholds and tricky finger supports, only to be braved by the most courageous. As soon as the little girl sees it, she is off at a run, the man following her at a much more leisurely pace.
He watches as the little girl struggles up the rock. Although it comes no higher than his waist, to the little girl, it towers above her. There are times of doubt, where she pauses and reconsiders. How can I reach the rocky top? Finally, after what feels like hours of laborious toil, she reaches the top. Victorious, she stands surveying the world around her. This is mine, she thinks, secure in her place in the world. All I have seen, I have conquered. And then …
Without the slightest hesitation, she races out to the edge and hurls herself into the waiting abyss. There is no fear, no concern. Because her grandpa is there to catch her. Again and again, without fail. The air flies by, the swoop of excitement. And then his arms wrap around her and gently deposit her back to earth. He will stand there and catch her for as long as she wants. And when she is tired, he will take her hand and walk her back home. Once again listening to her excited, perhaps slightly exhausted, chatter with the same calm patience.
Of course, I was that little girl. I dedicated my first book to my grandpa. Honestly, I’m not sure the book would have existed without him. He is there, in Alistair, the gray haired man who watches over the young protagonist. Another piece of him is in Maggie, the brave soul battling against cancer, but whose spirit always remained strong.
My grandpa never got to see my book, to hold it in his hands. I never got to hear what he thought about it, tell him how my quest to make something of my dreams was all because of him. He lost his fight to cancer September 2011. There isn’t a day that goes by where I don’t miss him, and I still find myself feeling like I’m forgetting to call him and catch him up on my day.
The world lost a great man on that day. And I lost one of my greatest supporters. A common joke- whenever I was feeling down about something, he always offered to call someone and tell them how important I was. “Don’t they know WHO you are?” See? Always there to catch me when I jumped off that rock.
It took me awhile to jump off any rocks after he was gone. When my grief finally started to fade, I realized that even though he wasn’t physically with me, his constant support and encouragement were still there. He believed, without a shadow of a doubt, that I could do whatever I set my mind on.
The world can be a very scary place. Scary when you have to take those risky jumps with only yourself to rely on. But hopefully, if you are very lucky, you will have someone to help you when you are in need. To love and protect you until you have the strength to race out on your own and jump into that waiting air.
I will forever miss my grandpa. His absence will always be an empty spot in my life, and there are so many things I wish he had been here for. The first draft of my book, that first hard copy, the first review. Because of him, I was strong enough to write down my words. To believe that I had a story in me that was worth telling.
I will always be thankful for his protective arms guiding me safely back to earth. He helped forge a woman who can land on her feet. It can be terrifying, and I’ll probably get some bruises. But, while I can’t see him, I know he’s still here. Cheering for me from the sidelines.
So thank you, Grandpa. For your love. For your support. These words are for you, and the words before and after. Now I have to go conquer some rocks. I hope I make you proud.
|Forever the best of friends.|