Let Go

To say that letting go is easy depends on what exactly it is. Letting go of a dollar, more or less, is easy depending on the need and substance it delivers. And as I have learned in life, through trial and error, that we are not meant to hold onto everything. We are meant to let go of the things that are holding us back.

Unfortunately, we don’t know what to let go of most of the time.

For me, I think the hardest thing I have had to let go of so far was my feelings of guilt. A story time is surely brewing, I hope you are prepared.

In my elementary school years, I was having a family crisis at the time. My grandfather, an avid smoker, was admitted into the hospital after not being able to breathe correctly when he was alone. We later found out that he had lung cancer, and the hospital refused to tell us, and we only found out as a doctor accidentally slipped it to my aunt when she came to collect his belongings. I do not remember the details of the beginning, but I do know that we made frequent visits to see him.

As a fifth grader, there wasn’t much on my mind other than playing the Wii, talking to my crush (at the time), and enjoying my young life while I had it. I do not think I was exposed to trauma in the family until then. And as I have learned in life, the longer you live without something, the harder it is to get and the more it hurts.

I remember not a whole lot of the situation as a whole; only bits and pieces. I do remember spending time with my grandpa before he died, though. I remember the summer days he would be picked up by dad to go to our house. As the smoker he was, and I believe after being alive for however many years, it was due to him being a part of the war and all of the stress in his life, that he had to smoke.

(Shameless plug: read https://alaynaandjosh.home.blog/2019/09/26/old-shoes/ for a better context of my grandpa’s situation)

Mom didn’t want him to smoke in the house so he had to do it in the backyard. She didn’t want us to get any chemicals that Grandpa was breathing in. I remember him sitting on our blue bench next to the old tree, sitting, allowing the sun to shine on him. Looking back on this, I interpret it as him getting warmth to warm the cold he had to face.

Grandpa was a single parent, having his wife die when most of his children were young. Born during the end of the Great Depression and joining World War II, he had to struggle raising three children of color in the 1960-70’s in the U.S.’s Mid-West, which was difficult on its own. Grandpa had a lot of struggles in his life, and I believe by smoking, he was trading the pain he felt every time he smoked and pushed it all towards the end of his life. I say this in respect for the man, as he had a long life full of struggles and was brave enough to press and then press even farther.

But when he was nearing his end is probably what I will never forget.

This was the day before he died. We were in the Veteran’s hospital, coming to the site late at night as dad had just gotten off of work. My brother and I were in the back seat, as dad and his best friend were in the front. The scene was dark, and that’s one of the things that stood out to me that night. I know that the night time is dark, but it was dark. As in there was a brief and subtle tone change with this trip that is different than the others.

We made it to the hospital and we went to his room. I waved past the patients sitting there, with their faint smiles. I remember as a kid this one lady in particular, holding a pair of flowers in her lap while sitting in her wheelchair. And she held onto them tight. I believed that they meant a lot to her, and that’s why she held on to them.

We saw grandpa in his room. He was mostly awake, as he was watching the television. Dad greeted him lovingly and my brother and I said hi to him. My dad’s best friend was in the corner of the room, a little stiff if I remember correctly. I believe that he was dad’s emotional support at the time, and was uneasy to how to help him. We talked to grandpa for a bit before hearing from a staff member that there was a Wii in the hospital for the patients to play with if they were bored being in bed. I believe I was holding a toy car in my hand, left it in the room, and hurried out of the room to find the Wii along with my brother, leaving my dad and his friend to talk to Grandpa.

I spent about 10 minutes running around that hospital to find it, and I don’t believe that I actually found it to be honest. I do remember running into my dad through the halls and him telling me that it is time to leave. I told my dad that I had to go back into the room, as I had left my toy car in the room with Grandpa before I left.

I walked into the room with grandpa. He was still awake, but drifting off into sleep. I think that the nurse had recently changed out his medicine. I remember looking at him, lying on his bed. He was motionless, and calm. He looked relaxed and expressionless, probably trying to fall asleep knowing how hard it was for him to breathe. I saw that on the other side of the bed was my toy car, and I walked over to grab it. The movement woke him up and he looked at me at the time. I didn’t understand what this was all about at the time, but I figured that Grandpa would be fine. I took my car and walked out the room.

“Goodbye,” my Grandpa said. And I didn’t respond.

The last person of his family who he will ever see rejected his words. This is what I have to let go. He knows that I didn’t mean it. I know that I didn’t mean it. It just happened. And if it was possible for me to change back time and reverse it and sincerely wish him well, I would do it in a heart beat. Knowing he died the day after that encounter sent me into a hole, a hole endless and dark. I cried for three days and three nights, unable to sleep due to all of the guilt I felt.

“I killed him.” “He needed me.” “I shunned him.” “How could you?” “Shame on you!”

“You chose games over family?

These all played in my subconscious for months. And even now, I still think about it. Ironically, one of the physical reminders that I have of him is my bad lungs due to second-hand smoke. That’s how I have my asthma today. I guess I will always have a part of him with me. And even if it’s harmful to me, I’m happy to suffer in the same way that he suffered. I look at it as atonement, to the terrible deed that I did.

But this is an experience. An unfortunate one with an unfortunate conclusion, but an experience nonetheless.

And all I can do to make up for his death is to let go and live my best life.

Grandpa, I’m striving to be the best. Don’t forget it, because I won’t forget you.

– J.E.

2 thoughts on “Let Go

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