Dear Grandpa, I Miss You ~ “Relay for Life”
I remember hearing the news like it was yesterday. Sitting at a Chinese restaurant with some of my friends and receiving the phone call from my Dad … my Grandfather’s battle was over. Cancer took his life on an overcast December afternoon, just a few days before Christmas in 1993. And just like that, he was gone, and my family’s life would never be the same.
This was my first true taste of despair in losing someone I loved to Cancer. I had lost relatives to the disease before that … my Dad’s mother and brother who lived in the Philippines, along with two aunts who succumbed to breast Cancer as well. But I barely knew any of them.
So when my Grandpa died, it was different.
He was the rock in our family, the man who led the way. Through his incredible fortitude, vision and work ethic, he paved the way for my Mother and her siblings to emigrate from the Philippines to the US. in the 1970s. And though they had little money in their pockets when they moved, they managed to build their life in this country brick by brick, slowly but surely with my Grandfather at the helm. Today I am proud to say today, my family is living an American Dream full of hope and unlimited opportunity.
This would not have been possible without my Grandpa.
I don’t think I ever met someone who didn’t love or respect him — he was such a good and honest man who worked hard each day of his life. He worked odd jobs tirelessly up until his death, spending Sunday mornings circling random jobs in the newspaper’s employment section. There was no job he was too proud to do and the irony of it all was that he didn’t really need to work anymore. Through years of hard work, he and my Grandmother managed to buy their own home and save a lot of money. He was what Filipinos call “coreeput” (don’t think that’s how you spell it, but that’s how you pronounce it, lol) — meaning stingy and cheap, lol. They lived with just the basics and necessities in life and were never flashy, but always happy. And one year before he died, my Grandparents finally bought a new car — a Mazda MPV. I remember seeing its silvery mauve coat sparkle in the sun for the first time. It was awesome and OMG it fit 7 people!!!! It was going to be the sweet ride he and my Grandmother would use to travel in when he finally decided to retire … but then he got Cancer.
While it has been more than 10 years since I lost my Grandfather, the memories of that struggle have somewhat resurfaced because Tommy’s Dad has been fighting Cancer for the past six years. So when Tommy’s longtime friend Becky, who recently lost her dad to a 12-year battle to prostrate Cancer, asked if we’d like to join her “Relay for Life” team , we excitedly agreed.
The “Relay for Life” event, which is a 24-hour walkathon sponsored by the American Cancer Society, was held at Artesia High School in Lakewood — my old high school. Several teams gathered at the school starting at 9 a.m. Saturday and walked/ran/crawled in relay style for 24-hours straight until the following day …. because Cancer never sleeps.
Tommy and I along with Chey, our siblings, his best friend Sen and some of my cousins did a day shift and a night shift during the 24-hour period, and collectively we walked roughly 30 miles. The first couple times I walked around the track I noticed all the personalized luminaries that lined the outskirts. They served as miniature altars to those who’ve either died or continue to battle this awful disease. And for me, it was a painful reminder of what it felt like to lose my Grandpa and as tears fell I realized how much I miss him …
I walked six miles that day.
Many steps were for Becky’s Dad, who I’m sure smiled rays of sunshine and pride from above. Becky’s group raised roughly $2,000 for Cancer research and together the group walked more than 215 miles. *simply amazin*
Several footsteps were for Tommy’s Dad, who despite his current struggles continues to be the best doctor I know. He has not let Cancer stop him from doing the work he loves and by continuing to live his life to the fullest, he has put Cancer on notice that he will do everything possible to fight its ugly ways.
And of course some steps were made for all those who’ve been affected by Cancer — the victims, their loved ones and those who’ve left this world.
But when my legs ached and my feet begged to stop in the darkest shadows of the night, those steps were for my Grandpa …
It has been so long since I’ve seen you, but I can still remember how your smile lit up our holidays. And how your snore made all us grandkids giggle. And while our family fun has not ceased, nor have our yearly family vacations or delicious holiday celebrations, life has not been the same without you or Grandma.
I just wanted you know I miss you both very much. But I hope you two are enjoying heaven and it is as good as you hoped it would be*
Oh and before I forget, you’ll be happy to know that my parents still use the MPV at least once a week, mostly to carry groceries or plants. And while it is getting old and doesn’t run as well as it used to, they refuse to give up the car because it is a reminder of your legacy and the wisdom you left behind … to work hard each day, but to also remember to laugh, enjoy life and love your family and God.
Grandpa, I miss you … and I hope you miss me too.
With Love from your eldest grandchild,