(My late grandfather aka Guppa, miss him everyday)
There is one person that always comes to mind this time of year. I think of him on some occasions, but for some reason my thoughts of him tend to skyrocket when the holidays approach. Perhaps that is because I won't hear his voice over the phone on Christmas morning, so my mind is trying make him alive in my heart and memories as much as possible. The man that I am speaking of is my late paternal grandfather, also known as Guppa (Goo-pah), and he is the inspiration for this post.
Guppa reminded me of a 1950's greaser. He always kept his thin gray hair slicked back, he had a face as hard as granite, hazel eyes with a hint of rebellion, and tanned skin. Despite that he was not a tall man, Guppa was tough enough to put an unruly person in their place. Yet his heart was dedicated to family, and those who were in need of help. What I remember the most was that nobody could get me to smile and laugh like Guppa did; he often got me in hysterics enough that tears from my eyes and my sides would ache, but not in a painful way. His humor, strength and heart made him invincible to me, I thought that nothing could ever happen to him.
Little did I know that March of 2011, Guppa one of the strongest men that I knew, lost a mercifully short but painful battle to leukemia. The day that he died, my mind took me back seven or eight months before he passed away. Guppa wanted to go on a golf cart ride, and I was in charge of driving. Now most of you probably learned that driving is not one of my specialties, but I could operate a golf cart pretty well for the most part. I could feel the nerves build inside of me, the previous time we drove in the golf cart together, the experience had not been pleasant. However I did not want to hurt his feelings, so I agreed to take him for a spin.
This next part is an excerpt of a creative writing piece that I wrote in college. It explains what exactly happened on that golf cart ride we took together:
"I sat up straight, kept my eyes focused on the road and was conscious about my speed. My heart was racing and I repeatedly said to myself, I can’t make a mistake, Guppa will yell at me, stay focused Meghan, and stay focused. I prayed every second, hoping that I would not do something to provoke a reaction from my grandfather. I was anxious enough not focus on the beauty of Florida like I normally did on the golf cart rides. I did not acknowledge the shining sun, the robin blue sky, puffy white clouds, the lush green grass, botanical flowers and the rolling golf cart hills that we passed."
"Then I looked at my grandfather, he turned and his lips quirked into a smile, and for once that hard core bad boy face was soft and at ease. It was a look that I had never seen in Guppa. I was so used to seeing his face so stoic and serious, even when he smiled there was still a hint of that toughness in his face. However this particular look that he gave me was anything but that, Oh my God, I thought to myself, this is amazing, he’s actually happy and relaxed for once, and I found myself smiling back at him. Then I turned my head and focused on my driving again. This time I was sure to enjoy the scenery around me and I was fortunate that I could do it with Guppa."
If there is anything that I learned from that experience, it was the importance of spending every opportunity I have with loved ones, because they can be gone the next day, the next month or the next year. This was one of the most challenging lessons to grasp, because I had to learn it from remembering my last moment with Guppa. Yet there is a blessing involved, because it encouraged me to cherish every second I have with those who are still with me, and I know that my grandfather would have wanted me to realize that.
I do not have an experience that relates to horseback riding, instead I intend to get right to the message. This holiday season tends to be a prominent time for family gatherings, and I encourage all of you to cherish that opportunity with them. You might want to roll your eyes when your parents nag you to set the table, your grandparents rambling about the good old days, and plug your ears when your cousins and siblings are running around like headless chickens. Yet try to find a way to cherish that time you have with your family, because you never know if you will have another opportunity to spend or if it will be your last. Thank you for your time, enjoy the holiday you celebrate, and hope that you find blessings in all you do.