I don't know where the word Papoo comes from, but for me it's the name I called my grandfather for as long as I can remember.
My Papoo was my soul mate. No one on this earth has ever known me better than he did. He and I were a team of sorts. This is the story of his passing.
One day after school during the beginning of my senior year, my Grandpa called me to his room. He was sitting up in bed on top of the covers. He and grandma had been at a doctor's office all day and I'd been bugging them to give the scoop on what was said. Granny stood in the door way as I sat down on the foot of the bed and my Papoo told me he had cancer. I had no reaction in the beginning because he had already survived multiple heart attacks and a stroke, cancer couldn't be that bad could it? My eyes shifted to the purple bruising on his arm from multiple attempts at a blood draw, and I became angry. I stood up and leaned over him and threw my arms around his neck and kissed his check. We were going to fight this all the way, I wanted to be at every appointment and be involved with every decision. I went back to my room and cried myself to sleep.
He was scheduled to go in for surgery two days later to remove the cancer. I ended up skipping school and showing up at the hospital. When surgery was over the doctor met us outside and said that they removed the bulk of the sickness, but that it had already spread to his lymph nodes. The doctor asked me to step outside while he explained to my Granny what that meant, but I wouldn't go. All I can remember him saying before I fell back in my seat was that it was too late. I never made a big deal out of it with anyone because this was going to be fixed. Doctors are supposed to fix shit, that's their job. My grandmother stood tall and strong as was in her nature to do but her eyes were filled with worry, and again, I became angry.
I said there had to be something they could do, chemo, radiation ... something. I had no idea what any of it meant at that time, but that they had to do something. You can't just come to me and say that my grandpa was just going to die. He did start a treatment that lasted just under a year and left him too weak to come to my high school graduation. He continued with treatment until hospice was finally called in in January of 2002. I remained in denial and swore that he would get better somehow. I spent many nights on my knees praying, but there was nothing anyone could do. My beloved Papoo died on Mother's Day in 2002. I've never cried so hard or for so long in my whole life.
As my aunt and my grandma and I were at a flower shop picking out flowers for his casket, I lost it. I left the shop and ended up standing by myself in the parking lot screaming at the top of my lungs. What were we doing? Picking out flowers for Papoo's casket? The thought was ridiculous to me. I remained in denial until the funeral. I was the last one to pass his casket on the way out of the church, and that's when I realized that he was really gone.
On this day, his birthday, I reflect back on that time. I think of our yearly traditions on his birthday. Grandma and I would take him out to eat, we bought him new shirts that he would never wear because he was afraid to get them dirty. We baked a chocolate cake along with his favorite supper, chicken fried steak, mashed potatoes with gravy and cornbread.
He talked me into singing in the choir at the church they attended. He and I would sit in his office for hours at a time writing songs, and singing. He played the guitar and we'd sing together. I do not sing anymore. I still feel, that the best parts of me went with him when he died. It's been 9 years and it feels as though not a day has passed. It saddens me that he never met Matthew.
I hope, that the heaven he believed in exists and that he's with my grandma. I hope they're keeping an eye on me and know that I love them both very much. He was a great man who helped anyone who needed it. He always loved and believed in me no matter what. He always forgave me when I acted like a brat. He taught me how to drive a tractor, how to bait a hook and how to shoot a gun. He was always on my side whenever my mom and I were fighting. He always stood up for me and helped me anytime I needed him. He was more than a grandfather to me, he was a father and he was the best.
I wrote this the night he told me he had cancer in a journal I kept.
"Come sit down my Jessie Dear and listen to me close
One of these nights soon, it will be my time to go
Now Jessie, don't you go to cryin'
It's something we all must do
It will be your time one night
And I will be waiting for you
We will see each other again
And relive our most glorious days
Until that day comes for us
Please hear me when I say
I love you my Jessie Dear
And now baby don't you cry
You be strong for me now
Your Papoo will be alright"