It feels so strange writing that, since you've been gone so long now. I'm sure you are looking down on us and watching your two granddaughters grow up. I wish they would have gotten the chance to meet you. I'm sure Addison would have gotten a kick out of you sticking your dentures out of your mouth and moving them around, and Aubrey would have loved playing "beauty salon" and putting barretes in your hair while you slept on the couch. I'm sure they both would have loved you pulling them out of school in the middle of the day to come home and play board games and Nintendo.
Things didn't end on the best note between us, and for that I have stayed angry with myself for the last 14 years, and probably will continue to do so for the rest of my life.
I remember the months of September and October of 1999 so vividly that it feels like it was just a year ago. I remember when Uncle Jimmy brought you home from the fair because you were sick. I remember you being admitted to the hospital because you were diagnosed with cancer, and that it was too advanced to do anything. I remember going to that hospital every day after school with mom. I remember doing my homework in a wooden chair with green padding. I remember rolling my eyes when mom would pick me up at school and say that we would be spending another night at the hospital.
I remember when you were able to come home and they put a hospital bed in our living room. I remember you sitting up in your bed with a smile on your face and saying that you were starting to feel better (a calm before the storm, I guess). I remember sitting at the kitchen table with mom and Dawn and hearing the words, "he's going to die soon" come out of mom's mouth.
But the morning of October 21st sticks out so clearly in my mind, because that was the last time I would ever talk to you. And when I think of that morning, my heart hurts. I remember getting so angry at you because you wouldn't eat. I took offense and walked out of the house without a goodbye kiss or an "I love you". I remember being in class when the guidance counselor called for me to come down to her office. I made it about halfway before realizing what it was about and I remember stalling at the top of the stairs that led down to her office because I didn't want to face what was about to happen.
I would give anything in the world for just one more day with you. I would tell you all of the things that I've wanted to say over the past 14 years.
I would tell you that you were such an amazing father to me. I don't ever remember a time where you let me down. I know you would have given me the world (even the pony that I wanted, even though we didn't even have a backyard). I would apologize for being angry with you on the last morning that we had together. I would recount with you all of our memories. How you'd walk to the corner store with me and buy me ice cream. How you'd drive around in that awful black and orange Harley Davidson bus. How you would have yard sales every weekend in front of our house and sell those tacky pictures and ceramic statues. How you'd call be "Dooba". How you'd be up all night playing solitaire and smoking cigarettes in your flannel pajamas.
I think about you every day. I love you and miss you more than you can ever know. I can't wait to share my stories of you with my girls. Even though they won't ever get to know you, they will know who Grampa Willy is.