A Bittersweet Trip

April has been a hard month to say the least. I try to stay away from talking about very heavy and serious things but this was something that has impacted my life and probably always will. April started out completely gutting because I lost my grandfather, Opa, on April 2nd. While my parents were out in Arizona I had to stay in Southern California due to housesitting a dog and some birds and had no one to leave them with. I have had 3rd degree burns on most of my upper body, fallen off cliffs, had my lip busted open, but nothing was as painful as having to be hundreds of miles away alone, not able to say one more goodbye, and get one more scratchy kiss from Opa.

My family has experience death all too often. Most of it happened when I was a child. I remember some but not all. This was my first experience of death like this as an adult. I spent almost all day crying and if I wasn’t I did my best to function. But as much as I wanted to be there for Opa, I am appreciative of the last memories I do have with him. We had come out to visit him where he lived in Arizona. Last year he gave me his old film camera along with a printer for photos, and when we came out to visit him this last time (for me at least) I remember how excited he was to see me, and how he was looking forward to seeing the photos I had taken with the camera he gave me.

I specifically remember seeing his face when he had some more parts to the printer he had forgotten to give me. He was so excited like he had a missing link to a puzzle that only he could solve, which he absolutely adored puzzles (that he forgot to give me with the printer haha). I love that memory, I love how happy he looked, how proud he was. While Opa had his flaws, like we all do, he was an incredible man. Strong, determined, brave. A Korean War veteran who served as a tank commander in the U.S Army.

On April 6th we had a memorial for Opa. Thankfully I was able to find someone this time to watch the animals for a few days and headed out to Arizona. A tradition we would do with Opa almost every time we visited him was to go for a walk with the dogs along the Colorado River. He loved seeing the dogs, especially Lenox my Rottweiler. They had such a unique and special connection. If you know Lenox, he’s not the most social dog. He’s your typical, as I call him, stubborn old man. He only is affectionate with me and a few in our immediate family and tends to be weary of others, but not Opa.

Lenox actually loved him. He would get so excited to see him, get scratches from him, and would even give him a kiss and let Opa do the same to him. I remember the first time Opa grabbed Lenox by the scruff and gave him a big kiss on the head. My heart nearly jumped out of my chest and I kept thinking Lenox please don’t bite him (He’s never bitten anyone but you can never say never…). Then to my disbelief Lenox returned Opa’s kiss with his own and from then on Lenox was his buddy.

I see so much of Opa when I walk along that river. So many memories from my childhood all the way up until my last time walking there with him. I miss him, and I know every time we go out to Arizona I will think of him, but I will think of all the love that happened, the laughs, and the beauty of it all.