I recently lost somebody very special to me.
To us, he was like a Grandpa, or as James and Donnie called him, Grampie. He was my Aunt Debbie's Dad, and although I call my Aunt Debbie's sister Aunt Barbie and her parents my "almost" grandparents, we're not related by blood. However, that doesn't make them any less family to me.
Last Monday, a week ago yesterday, Don dropped dead of a heart attack. No sickness, no signs if illness or injury, no shortness of breath. He was just visiting a friend and leaned forward and dropped dead.
It was so sudden that when my mom called, shortly after noon our time (2PM in Ontario) it almost didn't seem real. I got off the phone with her, called my boss Larry at the Chamber to let him know I was taking an extended lunch, then my boyfriend to tell him what had happened, and then called the Echo office to talk to Tom, my Pioneer boss. While on the phone with Anne, an Echo employee, I started to lose it. I got off the phone with her, called a friend, and completely broke down.
I couldn't believe that he wouldn't be there the next time I went to the cottage. The next Christmas. Newyears. Canada Day Social "Back North" (Ontarians, 'back north' has a new meaning now that I'm in La Crete, and I'm sure Don would have loved it here!). Nothing would ever be the same.
One thing I told mom that was special and unique to him was his offering of "screech", or as the rest of the world knew it, wine. He was so welcoming and always wanted to make sure everyone was comfortable, with wine in hand. I don't think I'll ever hear the word "screech" again, but if I ever do, I'll think of him.
Last night I settled down with a glass of dry, red, wine with Chris and it made me think of Don. And as the boys went ATVing by our backyard, it made me think of Don back north. And writing a moose hunting article last week also made me think of Don. I am noticing more and more that little things remind me of Don, and that I'm thinking of him all the time. Maybe it's his way of showing me that he's still with me; maybe he never left me.
I know that it will be hard at Christmas when I go home. Being here and so far away, it hasn't completely sunk it. It will be hard to go visit Norma, his wife, and not have Don offer a glass of his homemade wine when I walk through the door. Or to have him start up the coo-coo-clock for Bradley. Or to just see his soft, warm, smile standing at the back of the room, making sure everything is organized and going as planned and that everyone is happy and welcome. Or have him get up and offer me his chair as I walk into the room.
But I know the emptiness won't be forever. I'll be seeing you again, Grampie Don.