He Did It His Way


I’ll start this off by saying, I’ve always loved Autumn, it’s my favorite season. The weather isn’t too cold, but not hot either. You get to pick pumpkins and apples, celebrate Halloween and best of all (to me, at least), my birthday is in November.  

Now, November is a big time for birthday’s in my family. Within seven days, we have four birthdays, so growing up it was always an exciting time all around. 

I spent my childhood with my Grandpa. He lived with me until I started school; he owned the house my family lived in and he was my best friend. I would say this a lot, that my Grandpa was my favorite person, and sometimes people would say I was sucking up but it was never like that, I really felt that way. 

There was nobody like him. He lived such a long, successful life. He loved his family more than anything, and that will always be something so beautiful to me.  

My childhood comprised our Tuesday car rides to my aunt’s house, where he’d put the top down in his red Mustang Convertible, and give me a kerchief to tie my hair back with so it wouldn’t blow in the wind, just like my grandma would do. Every day I would sit with him while he watched the television, and I would look through the Guide, back when it was like a little magazine versus a button on the remote, and I’d ask him what shows were playing on Disney Channel for that day, and the days after that.

I remember when my Grandpa taught me how to read; we used the Dick and Jane books, and I was always so nervous to say the boy’s name. When he asked me why, I told him it was because I’d heard Mark and Bobby (my brother’s) calling each other his name in a rude way, so I was scared to say it too. That only resulted in my brother’s getting yelled at for cursing in front of me, but it’s still one of my favorite memories. 

I would always see him wearing some baseball cap, whether it was his Brooklyn Dodgers hat or his New York Mets one. Every family party, he would show up in one of those hats, the only exception would be weddings or funerals. Since I knew he loved his hats, I gifted him a hat from Mercy, wanting to give him something he’d enjoy from the college. This was his Christmas present for 2017 so when I saw him on Easter, I couldn’t resist asking him why he wasn’t wearing the hat I gave him, even if I was only joking. I assumed he’d forget about my asking him where his hat was by the next time I saw him, which was months later for the Fourth of July. As soon as I saw him, he called out to me and said, “Jill! Look, did you see what cap I was wearing?” and when I looked, there it was, his Mercy hat hanging up. He had remembered to wear the hat I got him, which was a memory I’ll always look back on.  

I have three cousins who are my age, and our birthdays fall in a short four-month period, so when we were all celebrating our sixteenth birthdays, that was a lot for everybody to make it to, especially my grandfather. It would have been a lot for him to make it to each Sweet Sixteen, and he couldn’t go to one of them and not the other. This was something disappointing to me because I wanted him to be at my birthday celebration, but I understood why he couldn’t be there.

I dedicated one of my sixteen candles to him, lighting it myself since he wasn’t there for it. When it got closer to my birthday, I got a letter in the mail from him that had a birthday card in it and a CD he burned for me. The CD had ‘Birthday’ by the Beatles on it, and ‘Happy Birthday Sweet Sixteen’ by Neil Sedaka on it. It was the best birthday gift I got out of the other stuff given to me by my family and friends that celebrated with me. Nothing could have topped that gift, and nothing beat when he called me to confirm that I got it and how happy he was to have sent it to me.  

In November 2018, my grandpa went to the doctor for a checkup. Things were okay, they just had to keep him for an extra couple of days in the hospital. Everything was a waiting game, but they told me that he would be okay. That was until November 5, I was working on duty in Founder’s Hall to check ID’s, and my mom told me she would come to bring me hangers, which didn’t seem that strange since she worked so close to Mercy. As soon as she came in, I knew things weren’t good. She told me that my grandpa would go into a hospice, and that meant that they would just be monitoring his comfort until he inevitably passed. 

November 6, the next day, was his birthday and the day he would move back to the home he’d been living in for the past few years before that would be converted into a hospice for him. There were over 10 family members who went to see him on his birthday and during the transition between being in the hospital and going to hospice, so I didn’t want to add more stress to that and pile into the room. I stayed in the waiting room instead, and he asked my mom where I was and why I didn’t come in to see him.  

My mom made him a chocolate birthday cake, his favorite, and he didn’t have enough appetite to eat it. He barely wanted us to sing happy birthday to him, but we did it anyway. We went down to a private room and let him sleep while we enjoyed his last birthday cake that he wouldn’t even have a piece of. I was supposed to work at 8 that night, but I couldn’t be back until 9 so I had a friend of mine cover the desk for me. On our way back from his home, I got sick multiple times. I could barely move, let alone walk. Everything felt like it was spinning, and I don’t know if I was sick or if I was so sad that no food could stay down. 

From November 6 until November 14, I visited my grandfather multiple times. Every day it seemed like he was there less and less and sleeping more and more. I knew they were my last days with him, but I didn’t know when he would be gone. On November 15, my mom called me to say that he had passed away while she was there. I knew it was coming, but that didn’t make it hurt any less.

There were services held on November 18th and 19th, and the funeral was on November 20th. My birthday is November 19th, and I spent it in a funeral home where what felt like thousands of people mourned my grandfather. I refused to go up to the casket to see him until the last day when I sort of had to. I couldn’t handle being up there. I didn’t cry that much at the funeral home, truthfully; I think I was all out tears. I was incapable of crying no matter how much it hurt.  

It’s been a year now, and things haven’t felt the same. It hurts more on the days where we’re driving past the exit to get to the home he lived at, or where I see something that reminds me of him. His birthday was a hard day because I only wished I could tell him “happy birthday.” It was even worse on the 15th, the anniversary of the day he died. It took me a few hours in the morning to realize what day it was, and when I did, I couldn’t help but feel terrible for forgetting to mourn him. I know he wouldn’t have wanted me to feel like that, but I couldn’t help it. I listened to Frank Sinatra that whole morning because I knew how much he loved him. 

The song ‘My Way’ really got to me, perhaps because I couldn’t help but think about how my grandfather did everything his way. It felt like a perfect song for someone saying goodbye, and somehow listening to it felt like saying goodbye to him, even if he’s been gone for a year. 

I don’t think I’ll ever be able to stop missing my grandfather. There are so many things that make me miss him, especially every time I see the hat I gave him hanging in my room, or the funeral card of his I have hanging up now. The only thing that might make me feel better, is thinking he’s finally been reunited with my grandmother after so many years.