My grandfather, I called him Papaw, was the greatest man I ever knew. He was a barber, and I spent many a day in his shop playing with his hot shaving foam machine, pretending to be the shoe shine boy and counting the money. I grew up in a barber shop and he even cut my hair. He was my world and he unconditionally loved and accepted me the way I was, and did not try to change me. I was a tomboy and we did everything together from fishing, baseball, boxing, to car races, whitttling and so many other great things. I was his sidekick, his shadow. Where he went, I went. We were a team. He was the kindest, strongest man I ever knew. He was so very patient with me, even when I would get the fish hook caught in his ear. I have never met another man like him.
When he became ill, doctors thought it was tuberculosis. He had to go away and stay in a sanatorium for a year. Later, he was correctly diagnosed with emphysema. He did finally come home, but things would never be the same. It would be three years of agony suffering with emphysema. He had surgery that split him open from the front to the back like a gutted fish. It was awful seeing him like that with hundreds of stitches. He did finally come home, but things would never be the same again. It would take three long years of unconquered pain for Papaw as he slowly perished from this disease.
I remember his final days spitting up blood, coughing, hacking, gasping for air and in so very much pain. The doctor finally admitted him to the hospital. I waited and waited for my turn to see Papaw. Days passed and there was no improvement. You know how you can just tell by looking at people's faces that something is wrong; studying my Papaw's face, I knew then what I did not want to accept...what I did not want to know. The end was near.
At night, I got down on my knees and begged God to spare his life. I even tried to bargin for his life, but that was not in God's plan for that day. I was angry with God for a long time because I did not understand death and what it means.
The last time I went into Papaw's room, I was so glad to see him. Something looked different about him. I could see it in his face. I sat quietly and then we briefly talked, and then he took his last breath and was dead. My life as I knew it changed in that moment. How could Papaw die and leave me? I needed him and now he was gone. I was twelve years old and I had the air sucked out of me. I couldn't live with out him. I did not want to live without him. He was the most important man in my life and I loved him with all my heart.