Photo of my Grandpa Larry with his backyard friend, Chiparoni

This is a photograph of my grandpa, Larry. To me, he may just be the smartest, wittiest

man to ever live. When I was a little girl, he would tell me countless stories about his time spent

working at NASA, studying comets and black holes. Well, that was all a lie, or rather his idea of

“pulling my leg,” as he’d always say. The truth was, my grandfather never really worked for

NASA. But oh, did I believe him. Even now, at twenty-two years old, I believe he at least

could’ve. Looking back, I just wish he would’ve told me before I told my entire 3rd grade class

that he worked with all the astronauts… Now, this is just one of those stories reserved for family

Christmases, or Thanksgiving dinners, that always seem to make everyone laugh- no matter how

many times they’ve been told. Something I understand even less about my grandfather is his way with animals. His best friend is the chipmunk that lives under his deck and he once told me that as a kid, he used to tie yarn around bumble bees and walk them around like pets- though the second half of that sentence may be a stretch. He is living proof that almost everything can be cured or treated with alternative medicine. He’s had different forms of cancer multiple times in his life, and each time he’s entered remission by himself, with no help from Westernized medicine. He would distill his own “silver water,” take herbal supplements, follow un-orthodox diets, and would stay constantly hydrated. When he told the doctors what his “secret” was, they were left shocked, each and every time. I never knew the entirety of what he was doing (I was just so young) but I wish I did. The truth is, my grandpa Larry has undeniably proven his wits, and his wisdom, more times than I can count, and certainly more times than I could include in this essay. But now, he has cancer again. This time it’s terminal, and he’s choosing not to treat it. And that- that may be the only dumb decision I've ever known him to make.

Learning of my grandpa Larry’s cancer and the reality that he is going to die, and probably soon, rummages up a lot of unresolved emotions for me. You see, he wouldn’t be the first grandparent I’ve lost to cancer. I have a lot of regrets surrounding the first. My grandmother Kathy died of cancer when I was a senior in high school. The truth is, I didn’t spend enough time with her when she was dying. Hell, I hardly spent time with her, period. What’s worse is, I grew up down the street from her. I mean for Christ’s sake, I live in the same house she raised my own father in. She was a 5-minute bike ride away, literally, and I still couldn’t find the time. The last time I saw my grandmother was by accident, at the local Target. I merely caught her as she was returning her cart. We exchanged a few unmemorable words, and she was off. A few months later, she was gone.

I remember the day she died. All ten of her children, and all of her children’s children, had flown in from all over the country to be with her during her final moments. My parent's yard was used as 'the parking lot' for everyone who had traveled-in. Together, we marched down the street, to a beat that would soon stop; towards a death that wasn't our own. Everyone seemed to be dealing with things in their own way. Some people cried and hugged each other in the living room, while others were anxiously baking muffins and casseroles in the kitchen. The husband-in-laws sat and watched football on the flat screen, and the children that were too young to understand what was going on were downstairs playing with grandma’s toy stash. When the doctor came out of her bedroom and gave us all the nod, everyone crammed into her bedroom, and for the next 20 minutes or so, the same church song played on repeat, as people whimpered softly, and nobody spoke a word.

Grandma Kathy (right) and her husband (left)

My Grandma Kathy died in that room. And so did the soft spirit of her husband. I watched as the last light in my father’s eyes left him that day; he had already lost two of his best friends that year. I watched as people broke down around me; I watched some of them as they stormed out the door. And I had yet to shed a tear. All I could think of in that moment was, “God, she was practically my neighbor, and I barely even knew her.” I didn’t. Even. Know her. The only true emotion I could find was guilt. That is a guilt I’ve carried with me now, for years.

Following her death, I found myself wondering what I hadn’t known about her life.

• I knew she was a nurse.

• I knew she had ten children and my father was the fifth.

• I knew she was a good cook and that she married young.

• I knew she…

That’s all I could come up with. After some time, and a few deep talks with friends, I realized

that I shouldn’t be too hard on myself. I had a lot going on at the time: a sister in rehab, a raging-alcoholic mother, and a really toxic & mentally draining relationship of my own. Oh yeah, and not to mention the big question everyone wanted my answer to: “What is it you want to do with your life?” Like I had any idea. I found closure in the promise I made to spend more time with my grandparents who were still living, and to get to know them and their pasts better.

In the five years since Kathy passed, I’ve spent most of my time away from family. I was either on military duty, at college, traveling, or amidst the eternal quarantine that was 2020. There was always something else going on that felt more important at the time, but as it turns out, it was the time wasted that was really important. I can't seem to forgive myself, because I didn’t keep that promise to myself, not even close. Since I found out about grandpa Larry’s cancer, I’ve been feeling like I’m on damage control. How could I let this happen again? How will I ever get this time back? I won’t.

Last week, I called my grandpa Larry to wish him a Happy National Grandparent’s Day. I could stand here and tell you that “I’m trying,” but deep down, even I know that one phone call barely constitutes effort. We mostly talked about school and he asked me what I was thinking about majoring in. In short, I told him that my head is in business, but my heart is in journalism; in art. He called me back afterwards, “ya know kid, I forgot to tell ya something,” he said. “Don’t spend your life doing what you think you should be doing, spend it doing what you want. That’s what I did,” he continued. “Don’t worry, you seem to have a lot of the same thoughts on things as I did at that age. I think we have a lot in common. You’ll figure it out,” he said just before hanging up. It was a bittersweet moment… feeling connected to him but also not knowing where the connection stemmed from. At this point, I still have no knowledge of his time spent in the war, or how he asked my grandma to marry him, what he did for a living before retirement, or how he cured his own cancer all those times. I feel terrible, because I don’t know if I have enough time to get all of my questions answered; to find the root of that connection.

Time... the one thing I never feel like I have enough of. I sat in stagnance worrying about this lack of "time" for quite awhile. I've tried to analyze it, my anxieties around it, beat it entirely. I tried reaching out to friends, meditating, the grief-section of Barnes and Noble- you name it, I tried it. But the anxiety was always there. It wasn't until I heard a line by Alan Watts, one of my favorite writers, that this madness was unveiled.

“We are living in a culture entirely hypnotized by the illusion of time, in which the so-called present moment is felt as nothing but an infintesimal hairline between an all-powerfully causative past and an absorbingly important future. We have no present," said Watts.

And so, I've settled with this conclusion: Time is made. You’re just wasting more time, when you’re worried about wasting time. The biggest realization of them all is this: Kathy’s life will have meant nothing to me if I make the same mistake of not being in the "present" with Larry.

My grandpa Larry cannot be memorialized; he is deathless. I will carry him with me, and everything he’s ever taught me, forever. Knowing what I do, Larry wouldn't want a damn memorial anyways. My grandfather wouldn't want me to be fearing his death before he's dead either. I now understand how pointless that is. Acceptance looks differently for everyone, but for me it looks like moving forward. It looks like finding joy in what time I have, and not like counting down the minutes of what time I have left. That is no way to live, not if I'm going to be "livin’ it like Larry," at least.