You know how you hear a song & it takes you back in time? Well this morning at work I had the radio on and what song should come on but “Lean on Me” (the Club Nouveau version); automatically I was flooded with memories. I am in my early teen years sitting at the Pizza Hut in the Detroit Lakes mall with my cousins.
It was a summer ritual; we’d go up to Pelican Rapids, MN & stay at the cabin my grandparents’ owned on Crystal Lake. When us “cousins” were young the trip included all the boys, girls, aunts, and of course our grandparents. As we got older the trips were divided into girls & boys, each of us going up on a separate week to stay with Grandma & Grandpa –as we matured (if you could call it that!) we no longer required the supervision of the aunts – we were old enough to drive!!
A couple evenings out of the week Grandpa would give each of us money & then would drop us off at Pizza Hut in Detroit Lakes. The plan was to eat some pizza & then go catch a movie. While at Pizza Hut we’d play our favorite songs on the jukebox as we waited for our food. We’d bounce along to the song, occasionally singing along too (but not so loud that it was causing a scene!). After the movie we’d wait for Grandma & Grandpa outside of the mall doors & they would take us back to the cabin. Once we got back there we were so tired we’d go to sleep pretty much right away.
In the mornings I swear Grandpa would be up with the sun. He was not a person that believed in sleeping in. After he got up & had his coffee he would start hollering for us to get up. “Get up Dizzy Lizzy!” he’d shout at me. “The days a’ wasting!” On a couple occasions I didn’t get up when he told me to and was greeted with a pitcher of water. After getting doused with water a couple times I learned my lesson & would pretty much jump out of bed as soon as I heard his voice in the morning.
Most people knew my Grandpa as a no-nonsense type of guy. Not me. Yes he could be gruff & strict, but he was also affectionate. I don’t think many people got to see that side of him. He wore Brylcreme in his hair and would sometimes let me fix it. I’d comb it into funny hairdos, like a mohawk or horns & he would pose with a funny face, look in the mirror, & say ”Come on Skinny Minny, what kind of hairdo is this?”
When Grandpa was diagnosed with skin cancer on his face; they performed surgery to remove the cancer & took some skin from his back to cover the area on his face where they had to remove the cancer. When he got home from surgery he requested that us grandkids not come to see him. He was afraid he would scare us; he said he looked like a monster. I never thought so though. Yes, it was strange to see his scarred face. But I got used to it & after time it was hard to tell he had even had the surgery.
One night Grandpa had a series of strokes that affected every aspect of his being. When he woke up he couldn’t talk or eat. He had to have a feeding tube put in & attend some speech therapy classes. He never really got any of his abilities back before he died.
Grandma was so strong through it all. She didn’t let anything get her down and she never complained. One May she started to not feel so well & have pain in her hip. Her doctor told her it was nothing. In either July or August she went in again & they found cancer everywhere. By December she was gone. I had a really hard time coping with her death & Grandpa’s failing health. I actually avoided them a lot the last few months – it’s one of the biggest regrets I have.
When Grandma died I drowned my sorrows in a 2-liter bottle of Purple Passion. It became a nightly ritual. I’d get together with a couple friends & drink until I was numb. It was definitely not a good way of dealing with grief – but it’s what I did. Since I lived in an apartment with a friend & no family was really around it was easy to hide. I don’t think I had a sober night for months. I’m not really sure what caused me to stop that drinking binge – maybe it was just that I didn’t like the person I was becoming. (I don't know if anyone knows this - but I guess now they will!)
My grandparents were very generous people. They were the kind of people you could count on. They were honest & strong. They both had hard lives growing up. They got married after 2 weeks of dating, if I remember correctly. They had some really hard times in their marriage, but you could see that they really loved each other. I think of them often. Sometimes when I’m thinking of them I am overcome by grief. I know that they are in a much better place – but I still miss them. Someone will call me “Dizzy Lizzy” & I’ll get this pang in my heart because it makes me think of Grandpa or I'll smell lilies and think of Grandma. Every day there is some reminder.
I guess today is one of those days where I miss them tremendously. I just hope they knew how much they were/are loved….