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10 years ago yesterday, my entire world was changed forever. - Album on Imgur
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10 years ago yesterday, my entire world was changed forever.

by 12d via iPhone

I had just returned home after finishing my four-year enlistment with the Air Force that fall. Over the months that followed, I told you about the girlfriend I had temporarily left behind in Alaska, and how you were going to be a grandpa. You bought me and my new family a house, in my name, to help build my credit; and you even made the mortgage payments for me while I focused on finishing my degree. I don’t think I told you how much I appreciated that.

You met your future daughter-in-law for the first time that fall. I’ll never forget the wink and the “thumbs-up” you gave me when you first saw her. You two seemed to really hit it off. You even danced with her at my cousin's wedding. She was starting to show too. Only a few more months until you were going to be “Grandpa Dave”.

Winter break comes along, and you mentioned you were making a cross country trip to deliver a vehicle to San Francisco. You asked if I wanted to come along and, having never been on a cross country trip before, I readily agreed. I probably was too stubborn to admit it then, but I had also grown to miss you a lot those past four years, and I was happy to spend this time with my dad and best friend again.

We said our goodbyes to my sisters, mom and girlfriend and headed out to San Fran from our home in the Chicago suburbs. Along the way, we had a great time catching up, laughing, eating, and just enjoying each other’s company. My only complaint along the way involved your snoring and how it kept me awake at night. From there on out, you made it a point to get a separate hotel room from me, just so I could sleep. I don’t think I ever told you “thanks” for that incredibly selfless act either.

Nearing the end of our trip, we decided to stop and visit your brother in San Jose, and spend our last night there with him and wife. That night, we ate incredible Asian food, drank Sake, went for a walk, peed in some bushes and laughed our asses off. It was some of the most fun I think I ever had. I wish I had told you that. We ended the night, with you giving me the only spare bedroom, and you opting to take the couch (because of the snoring complaint) in the living room. This was the last time I would ever see you alive.

The next morning, I woke to the sound of my uncle and his wife screaming my name. I ran out of the room, to find you at the bottom of the staircase. The light had left your eyes, and it was clear you had been gone for some time. Later I’d discover that you must have gotten up to use the restroom in the night, and instead of stepping into the restroom, you stepped into nothingness and fell to the bottom of the stairs. That image still haunts my dreams to this day…

The next 24 hours was the worst day of my life. I had to call my mom and sisters, to give them the news. Mom collapsed at work, and my sisters thought I was playing a cruel prank on them. To top it off, I then had to fly back home… alone, with your body beneath my feet.

Your funeral was a surprisingly refreshing breath of fresh air. The funeral home was packed with 100s of people who had come to pay their respects. So many in fact, that a number of them had to wait outside. The entire fire department, complete with EMT vehicles and firetrucks, came to pay respects to a man they had never met, in honor of your service 30 years prior. We had to hold two additional memorial services just to accommodate everyone wanting to say “goodbye” to you one last time.

In the time since you left… Your first grandson was born 2 months later. That frail, little boy managed to pull our entire family (especially mom) out of a pit of despair and depression. Afterwards however, things got harder before they got better.

I had to drop out of school and look for a job to pay for the mortgage you had been paying. Mom grew distant, and turned to drinking to help dull the incredible pain she was still feeling. As for me, I hadn’t properly dealt with your passing, and this put an incredible burden on my relationship with my girlfriend and our son. I am so thankful she ultimately stuck with me. Eventually, we lost the house. Luckily though, after applying to 423 different jobs around the world, I had gotten a helpdesk-type job near Pittsburgh, PA. On a whim and a prayer, we packed up everything we could in a U-Haul truck, and started our new life.

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