Monday, September 10, 2007

The greatest impact on my life....

When I was going into 4th grade my mom, sister and I moved down to Bayville, NJ. We moved into my grandfather’s house. My grandfather did not live there he lived right next to us. He is the guy who married his neighbor :) I was fortunate to grow up with him in my life on a daily basis.

Looking back, moving next to him was the single best thing that ever happened to me. I did not know while growing up, but now I understand how much he taught me. My life, to this point, has been spent living on a few values my grandfather taught me; work hard, provide for your family, stay away from drugs and help others. These values were never directly talked about, but were messages sent during our conversations.

My grandfather was the man who taught me how to dribble a basketball. He had me walk and run from his driveway to the corner dribbling the ball. Once I finally learned to dribble I was playing basketball every single day. Rain, sleet, snow or shine and my grandfather was there with me to pass me the ball and to help show me a little defense against my shots. Those were great times!

When I was in high school my grandfather used to go up to the local VFW (or as he liked to call it “The Club”) every morning around the same time I had to catch the bus. At some point I got sick of taking the bus so I got a ride from him. He was going in the same direction so it worked out for both of us.

The ride from our house to the school was around 10-11 minutes. It was during the morning rides that I learned a lot about my grandfather. I heard the great stories from his years as a Newark fireman. I also heard some stories from his time in the Navy during the war.

Some of my favorite stories where about him and my grandmother starting a young family. Hearing how he worked at a bank, cut lawns, drove trucks, etc. He was always working to provide for the family. Hearing stories about my mom, uncle and aunt would make me laugh (we are all kids once.) I really enjoyed those rides.

He always exceeded what a grandfather should be. He was a father figure in my life and he did not have to be. One that made me the man I am today. I can honestly say that no one has made a bigger impact on my life than my grandfather.

It wasn’t until last year that I found out my grandfather had Leukemia (CLL.) For over 17 years he was fighting cancer and I never knew it. I guess that is because I was young kid when he first was diagnosed. It just never came up again over the years. Not until I was diagnosed with testicular cancer. Knowing he had cancer all that time and never once complained and went on with his life made me understand how I should handle my own fight.

Today, as I write this, my grandfather is in the hospital. He is in failing health, not specific to the leukemia. Over the last few weeks he has been very sick with infections of the lungs and his health has progressively gotten worse. Things do not look good and the leukemia does not help. It is hard to see someone who has made such a huge impact in my life and someone I love dearly go through this phase in life.

My grandmother and I spoke the other night at the hospital and we both agree if it is his time to go, all of us know he has lived a great life. He has the proper documents in place to ensure he is treated as he wishes. This is part of life. You live life and one day you are faced with death.

I plan on living life to its fullest, enjoying my time with Kristy, Caroline, Annabelle and the rest of my family & friends. I can only hope to make a difference in my daughter’s lives as my grandfather did in mine.