Planes, trains and automobiles. The universe was against me as I made plans to be by the side of one of my absolute favorite people – my dying grandpa.
“Big Fishy” is what I called him, and I was his “Little Fishy.” Honestly, I can’t remember exactly what moment caused these nicknames to be created, but I can tell you that it’s all I’ve ever known between my grandpa and I. That man sure knew how to pucker up his lips into our signature pout each time he saw me.
My grandpa was diagnosed with two types of cancer about 16 months ago. He was newly 91. He didn’t want to know specifics…he had lived one hell of a life. Fell in love twice, raised three kids, he was a trainer for the Minneapolis Lakers, he helped lead multiple hospitals around Minnesota and South Dakota as an administrator…really, he lived to help others.
He personified Christ in his daily life, and I do not say that lightly. No matter your opinion of organized religion, or your own spirituality, that man sure knew how to make you feel special.
I was the youngest in my family, that is until the cousins started popping out babies of their own, and my mom was the youngest child. So, I was often times looked down upon by the rest of my family. But not Big Fishy. He treated me with the same respect he would expect for himself. I was always good enough to him. I was never “too young,” “too small,” or “too stupid.” He saw the light in everyone. He was able to forgive. Hell, you’d rarely cross him – he put the fear of disappointing him in ya.
He was ready to be reunited with his Creator, family members, and friends and there were many instances over the past 16 months where he thought he was going to go. But, he held on. He held on for one more Christmas. He held on for one more birthday. He held on to say goodbye to his loyal pup, Beau. But then, he was ready. Really ready this time.
He was an honest man. And since he was an honest man, he knew when to tell my mom he would be leaving this world. Thank God for that quality. It’s the one that allowed me to drop everything and be by his side as he took his last breath. It’s the one that allowed me to hold his hand as he transitioned into the next world. It’s the one that allowed me to dry my mother’s tears, and hold her sobbing body as she mourned the loss of her last surviving parent.
I miss him every damn day. There are so many things I’ll miss about him. But what I’ll miss the most is just sitting next to him and feeling his love for me, his community, his dog, golfing, just everything…that love just radiated off his being. You could NEVER not feel joyful around Bob Polk.
My heart is broken, and may always be broken.
I see him golfing in the clouds. I hear him bowling in Heaven with his father during rain storms. I hear him signing to me on the oldies station. I feel him in the wind as I race my bike through Chicago’s streets, his arms protecting me. I remember him by the pain in my chest as I wake up each morning realizing I’m still living in a world without him.
But, I am so eternally grateful for this man for one specific reason – he gave me my mom, my other favorite person. Without him, there would be no her and no me.
When I thanked him for giving me my life and he asked me why, I said that without his love for my mom, I wouldn’t be a fighter or a writer. I wouldn’t be an animal lover or a volunteer. I wouldn’t be a child of God or an American. I wouldn’t be.
So, I want to publicly thank him again for his love, for waiting to pass on until I got there, for always believing me, and for always being with me.
Until we meet again… What Would Big Fishy Do?
If you feel so inspired you may donate to my grandpa’s memorial fund set up at his parish, First Lutheran in Lake City. The fund will gift a scholarship money to a college student looking to study medicine, to help lessen their financial burdens.