Loss within a Smell

November 29, 2010
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When I think of any type of smell the first thing that comes to my thoughts is the smell of my grandfather’s cologne. It is a very distinct fragrance, and writing about it, and thinking about it now, I am able to smell it. I couldn’t be able to describe the scent, for it is so unique and distinctive. The smell defines him, and it at all times will. Coming on surprise visits we could smell my grandfather as soon as he would walk in the door. But things began to modify when he was taken to the hospital in June of 2008. Throughout time, while he was lying on his deathbed, I was barely allowed to see him. My sister, both my brothers, and even my brothers girlfriend were able to drive themselves over to the hospital to see him. Being only fifteen I couldn’t take myself and no one would ever drive me.
Waking up one morning, I could smell him. I inhaled his cologne; he had to be wandering in the house somewhere. I ran downstairs to see him, and to ask him how he was feeling, but all I saw was a little square, clear bottle of his tawny cologne sitting on the kitchen table. Something was wrong. I pleaded to my parents to let me know what was going on. They didn’t want to tell me, and didn’t want me to get upset by the way he looked and to see how painful it is to see him suffering.
“He doesn’t want you to see him like this. He’s hurting and he wants you to remember the way he looked before.” My dad said. “He has emphysema, and he can’t speak. They cut a hole in his throat and a tube going through it.” I couldn’t get the image in my head to prepare to what was coming. I had to wait and see for myself. The sickness lingered in my brain. “Emphysema,” which is a non-curable illness in your lungs, caused by smoking. I never knew that he had ever smoked before.
Walking into the hospital, I started to sweat. My dad’s face started to get pink, and my mom’s head was pointed at the ground. My insides were flipping to no end, and just all of a sudden it was hard for me to breathe. I tried to be strong; I had to prepare for the worst. The door of his room was opened, I slowly walked in. I saw him in the corner of my eye, but I didn’t want to look. I couldn’t smell his cologne, which was unsettling. I didn’t prepare myself enough. Helpless, still, motionless and tired, my grandfather was just lying there. He picked his head up ever so slightly and smiled at me. My first reaction was to cry, but I kept my composer, and just took ahold of his enlarged hand. I didn’t feel much like a hand. His skin was soft, but I felt like I was holding onto a ball. I smiled at him.
Since he had emphysema, my dad realized that my grandfather’s cologne was just a cover. A cover to hide the odor of smoke from the cigarettes. The cologne was used for the wrong reason, a reason I didn’t want to think about. He had been sneaking around and smoking, putting his life in danger, and for all of us the ending result was painful and not what any of us wanted. Death. I try not to think about the “real” reason. When my grandfather comes to my mind I think of that smell, as does everyone in my entire family. It was who he was.
In the third grade, I was lying in the nurse’s office so sick, that I couldn’t attend class. Both my parents were at work and unable to pick me up. They called my grandfather, even though he was at work as well. Enclosed in a small room lying on a sheet less bed, he had arrived in the nurse’s office. I couldn’t see that he was there, for the room was dark, and I was far from the door. But I could smell him. I got sluggishly up from the bed, and dragged myself into the office where he was talking with the nurse.
“How you doin’ kiddo-did you smell me?” He said when he first saw me. Even though I still felt sick, I couldn’t help but to laugh, for what he said was so true, and he knew it too.
From time to time the scent turns up. I keep a bottle of his cologne in the glove department in my car, so whenever I open the door of the red car, the scent is there. In a strange way I feel his company when his scent lingers throughout the car. It makes me feel safer. I was given a sweatshirt of his and every day I wore it to bed, and would fall asleep to the smell of my grandfather. Since I wore it so much the sweatshirt began to smell more like me and less like him. The next time I put it on; the scent went straight through me. My sister knew how upset I had gotten and had dabbed some of his cologne of the sleeve. It is a smell we can’t forget, and won’t let ourselves forget.
My grandfather had such a huge impact on my life. I’ve learned so much from this tragic experience. That feeling of losing someone so close to you will never get better; we just learn to live with it. For me, he was my first loss. I had never knew anyone that I loved that had died before. The feeling of never seeing him again hurts, but he has taught me that life goes on and we can’t dwell on the past. It also made me realize that time moves fast, and we can’t spend it being unhappy, although every now and then it’s okay. But we need to live life to the fullest, and remember we have a life to live ahead of us. I’ll always have his scent all around me to remind me of this life lesson and to remind me of him.

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