My biological grandfather passed away a few years ago. I knew it was coming at some point. After moving to Canada I knew that eventually, I would get that dreaded phone call from the old homeland informing me a family member had passed away or was about to. At which point you’d have to ask whether jumping on a transatlantic flight with virtually no notice is the right investment of time and money. With his funeral being planned for literally days later, it was impossible to even attempt to fly back and get there on time. And that’s the problem. When something urgent or unexpected happens, you’re not going to make it back fast enough if you live this far away. After being in Canada for almost twelve years now, I’ve missed weddings, funerals, divorces, birthday parties, and many other events. Some I was invited to, others I didn’t even know about and found out about after the fact. I’ve tried sending postcards when I did know. Because it’s the thought that counts, they say.
The one unexpected trip home I did make was to see my “other” grandpa (Opa, in Dutch) at least once more. He wasn’t grandma’s first husband, so technically speaking not even my biological grandfather. But to me, he’s always been the most family I could imagine. As a child, I had developed homesickness, which abruptly ended the sleepovers I always enjoyed prior. Through endless patience he helped me overcome this fear, making me feel comfortable to sleep in other beds but my own again. Without knowing it at the time, he might have put in the foundation for my future travels all around the world, helping me feel at home everywhere I go.
When I heard Opa was diagnosed with various types of cancer, I called him. When we spoke on the phone, it seemed he hadn’t changed much. Despite his life-threatening condition, he was still doing well given the circumstances, still being lively and energetic. I called my travel agent and she got me on a flight to Amsterdam. The purpose of that impromptu trip wasn’t to say goodbye, but to have a cup of coffee with a man that meant so much to me. I never wanted the last memory to be anyone’s deathbed, but the stories we shared over coffee, and Dutch treats. Those last memories are the ones we carry with us.
Two Years Later
“There is a lot to see out there if you’re willing to go see it.”
That trip was just over two years ago. After that visit, he’s been on several vacations and day trips, doing the things he loved as best as he could. We spoke at least monthly on the phone, and he struggled most with the fact that his body was aging, while his mind wasn’t. He still wanted to do and see so much. One of my favorite recent quotes is “there is a lot to see out there if you’re willing to go see it”. That about sums it up.
Literally days before boarding my next flight to the old homeland, Opa passed away in December of 2019 at 85 years young. Thank you, Opa, for everything. Have a safe onward journey. I love you.
My Love 2.0 book is dedicated to my beloved grandfather.