Today would have been my Grandpa’s 87th birthday. Or Papa, as we called him. But he passed away a little over a month ago now. Below is the journal entry I wrote back in late January when I learned that he’d been given a time remaining” estimate with the units in months.

I’ve thought a lot about putting this out on the internet, or just keeping it for myself. But Papa was a gregarious man, and I think his memory deserves company. So here goes.

Tonight I found out that my Grandpa has around six months to live. He’s been struggling with heart issues and back issues for years and years at this point. He’s had ups and downs, but this particular heart issue has kind of come out of the blue for me. I thought after his heart surgery a few years ago that the problem was mostly taken care of. And he’s had another recent operation that was getting his back pain more under control.

So to find out that, despite all that, he’s likely to be gone before the end of 2022 is a shock.

I’ve known my grandparents — both sets — are getting up in age, and I’ve come to terms that they could die any year now. But there’s something about knowing that it’s probably going to be this year that we lose one of them that hurts bad.

I only found out from my parents a few hours ago, so I still need time to accept the news. My dad (Papa’s son) — well, both my mom and dad — seemed strong on the phone. Stronger and more positive than I would have expected. But they’ve had more time with the knowledge, and practice telling the news to my sisters. I’m sure my dad was a wreck yesterday.

I was pretty upset myself after I got off the phone. My wife and dog cuddled me while I cried.

Thinking back to my favorite times with Papa, tobogganing immediately comes to mind. Maybe because I was out in Lake Placid today, and saw the toboggan run in action, but also because he always had so much fun pulling us around on the tractor. And we had so much fun holding on for dear life, and trying to pelt him with snowballs from behind.

I’ll remember Papa as a strong man. One who provided for his family. Who started a small business that continues to provide for my family today. Who took care of a big plot of land full of woods and trails, and who was formative in teaching me that we have a responsibility to take care of nature. I’ll remember him as a kind man — I literally can’t recall a time that he was truly angry. And as a positive guy — he’s remained optimistic throughout his many years of pain and waning mobility.

But most of all I’ll think of him as the generous, loving, hard-working, goofy, joke-loving grandpa that any kid would be lucky to have.

A family of five, hugging and facing the camera in a log cabin.
My Nena and Papa, surrounded by my Dad (left) and Aunt and Uncle (right), in the cabin that he built and cherished.
My grandpa cutting wood on a circular saw in a garage.
Papa loved his garage workshop. Here, he’s cutting wood for birdhouses as part of my Eagle Scout project.

Today, as I look at the title Papa’, it still fills my heart with sadness knowing that he’s gone. I know it won’t always feel that way, and soon enough I’ll be able to look back at these memories with all the joy and laughter that he brought into the world. But right now it still hurts.


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