by Kathy DavisMy grandfather was the only person on the planet that ever made me feel safe. I knew that he genuinely loved me. When I lived with him and my grandmother for most of the first ten years of my life he used to hold me in his arms as I sat on his lap. We would watch Gun Smoke and Bonanza. Life was good from his armchair. Grandpa was my anchor and little did I know that his love and protection would provide me sustainence for many years to come.
Grandpa looked like a big blond Indian, and he was for his mother was Cherokee.He was bullied growing up and called "half breed". I felt sorry for him when he shared with me stories of being taunted and teased, for I could feel his pain.
I used to hide his cigarettes and he would actually cry sometimes because he wanted one so badly but I did not relent. I was a tough little thing protecting my grandpa from his habit. One day, just before moving to Philadelphia when I was ten years old my mother told me we were going to visit grandpa in the hospital. Because the hospital did not allow children inside, they brought him to a patio in a wheel chair. Unknown to me, he had suffered a heart attack and had severe heart disease. My grandpa had changed. He was no longer the big blond Cherokee of a grandpa who could do anything and everything for me. He was crying,and he made no attempt to hide it. His ankles were swollen and large like nothing I had ever seen before. I stood stiff and tall in my ten year old body and felt tight bands choking me in my throat. I was scared of losing him; scared not to have him in my world and not grasping what "good bye" would mean if he died. As the nurse began wheeling him away,grandpa cussed and cried saying "don't take me away from my girl". He repeated it like a mantra and I wanted to chase his wheel chair and throw myself across his lap and pretend that everything could be okay again. It was not to be.
One evening when I was living in Philadelphia my grandpa phoned me. It was a big deal to me that he called. I felt special,and connected to him. I asked him if he was better and if he would be getting out of the hospital.There was quite a pause before he answered and he replied "yes I will be all better". He also stated deliberately,"Kathy my girl, I love you".
The following day when I returned from school,sullen and worried in spite of the phone call the night before, my mother told me that my grandpa passed away in the night. Something inside of me whispered that he would never be leaving that hospital, for since the day I visited him in his wheel chair on the hospital patio, my psyche already knew.