I grew up with five brothers on an 11-acre farm in Oregon. We all had our duties on the land and life seemed perfect for my testosterone-filled family.
I spent most of my childhood with my maternal grandparents as they lived two minutes down the road. A majority of my time was consumed at their house doing my homework, sitting on my grandpa’s lap watching “The Price is Right” and eating large assortments of candies, chocolates and cheeses.
Life was, in essence, perfect, up until April of 2007. I was 10 years old when my grandparents disowned our entire family for no apparent reason. Years of love and memories washed down the drain in a day. Cast aside as if it were nothing. Not having a clear concept of death, it was hard for me to understand why I was told to consider them dead.
With six dependents at home, my parents never financially planned for something like this to occur, as they were disinherited entirely during this heartbreaking process. However, disinheritance meant nothing to my parents. To this day, no one knows why my grandparents did what they did. Three years went by without any form of communication between my parents and them. It took a long time for me to grasp and understand the reality of the situation.
Two years after the disownment, my parents realized they needed new scenery for a fresh start on life so my dad applied and was accepted for a job transfer in Denver.
My younger brother, Nathan, and I agreed to move out there with my dad to start middle school at Mile High Academy, while my mom and other siblings stayed back to tie up loose ends while my older brothers graduated from high school.
A month before the three of us were scheduled to move to Denver, my family got a call from a pastor in Oregon informing us that my grandpa was on his death bed and had requested that we visit him. I remember breaking down in tears after hearing this news because I wasn’t ready to see them again, especially under these circumstances. I was shaky, nervous and, quite frankly, really scared to see them again.
We all hopped into the car and drove two minutes down the road. When we arrived at their front door, I rang the nostalgic doorbell that echoed throughout their house and waited nervously and curiously as to who was going to open the door. It slowly opened and I saw my grandma’s eyes fill with tears as she went gave my mom a hug. After three years of not speaking to each other and tears coming down both their faces, this was a reunion that needed to happen.
My grandma led us down the long, dark hallway to my grandpa’s room. He was not able to speak and was breathing through an oxygen tank on a hospital bed. Seeing him in such bad health scared me and made me angry at how this separation managed to go on for so long.
As time passed, I remained in distant contact with them while I continued school in Denver. It had been seven months since the reconciliation and I came back to Oregon to visit during my spring break. My family got together at the end of my break to spend time with my grandpa. I remember the weather being dark, gloomy and raining. When we were about to leave his bedside for the night, he pulled me aside with his cane as everyone else left the room and he apologized for what they had done. He said he loved me very much, and I gave him a hug as if it were the last since I wasn’t sure when I would see him again; I was leaving for Denver to start school again the next day.
Upon arriving in Denver, I received the news that my grandpa was rushed to the hospital with congestive heart failure. He died at the age of 84, the same day I left. I was devastated and struck with my first feeling of loss and grief. I remember being thankful to have reconciled with them before his death. I just wished I could have gotten the last three years of wasted time back.
At his funeral, as my five brothers and I released six blue balloons into the sky, someone came up to me and said, “I have one word for you, ‘temporary.’” That singular word gave me hope that I’ll see him again, and it also gave me a lot of meaning for how I live my own life. I get peace in knowing that struggles in life are all temporary, and to people of faith, death is temporary too.
Griffin Leek writes from the Pacific Northwest.
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