Laughter, warm hugs, decks of cards and checkers surrounded me every summer when I went to a small Russian community nestled in between farms, synagogues, and deserted houses in upstate New York. This old run down area was a place I called my home. The constant annoyances such as issues with the plumbing, lack of wifi, no air conditioning and swarms of mosquitoes did not bother me. I was filled with happiness by the people I loved. I shared one room with my grandparents: two people who I constantly bickered with, but could not imagine life without. My grandpa was a humble man, who lit up every time his family visited and my grandma bordered on being too nice, trusting and loving. Everyday my grandpa got up at sunrise and put on checkered shorts, a white stained shirt and a pair of prehistoric shoes that were sewed by my grandma. He then quietly crept out of our bungalow and walked out into the forest in search of blueberries. When I would wake up he had already washed the bucket of treats that he picked and changed into pants in order to hide his scratches from me. I would later discover these scratches when he would pull me out of bed and insist on me being in the fresh air and going for a swim. I usually rejected his request, refusing to climb out of bed, until he would drag my friends to my room in order convince me to change and say goodbye to my comfy pillow. Now looking back on our memories together I realize that this was just one of the many things he did for me. He never failed to be there when I needed him and I never understood how lucky I really was until I was the one taking care of him.
When he was first diagnosed with cancer I had just gotten into a large argument with my mother and locked myself in my room. When my mom knocked on my door saying that it was an emergency I ignored her telling her to leave me alone. Eventually she got my door open and ran over to my bed giving me a giant hug. I sat there stunned and confused. She then told me that my grandpa has been admitted to the hospital after intense pain. I continued to look at her but this time I was no longer confused. She didn’t need to tell me what they found when they ran the tests; I knew something was terribly wrong. After the news sank in we both went downstairs lying down in embrace while tears ran down our faces. My dog terrified of the noises made by us sobbing began to whine and circle around us. We then lifted him up and sat in silence until my dad arrived home. I cannot recall anything from the beginning of this day but, the evening could not be any more vivid in my mind and memory.
After the diagnosis we all pretended to believe in the possibility of full recovery but secretely each one of us thought there wasn’t much of a chance to recover from stage three cancer. Regardless of our beliefs we treated him as if he was healthy. We continued to ask for his homemade jam and marinated tomatoes, we accepted the fact that he still wouldn’t eat anything green, and most of all we tried to visit him as much as possible. At a certain point my grandma asked for my parents not to bring me to visit him. She said that he did not want me to see him in such a poor state. He wanted me to remember him the way he was when he was fully healthy and that is exactly how I remember him now. A strong loving man who just wanted to be with his family.
I never really said goodbye, but he will never fully leave my life. He will always be there. Whether I’m eating blueberries, playing cards,or refusing to get out of bed he will always be there in my memories, inspiring me to live in the moment and reminding me to appreciate my family and those who are close.