The dinner table was set. My aunts and uncles were loading up everyone’s plate with piles of pasta and mountains of meatballs. My grandfather, seated at the head of the table, leaned down and picked up the only thing that was forever his own: a liquid shrouded in mystery.
This man, my grandfather, was someone I had learned all my life to respect however I had never built a strong relationship with him. For the first 10 years of my life, I had lived in Amherst, New York and my grandparents lived in Irondequoit, New York. We were an 80 minute car ride away. However in 1999, when I moved to Webster, a mere 15 minutes from my grandparents’ home now, I had begun to view my grandfather through new eyes. He shared stories with me, showed interest in me and my life, and had, believe it or not, begun to share his lemonade with everyone. It was at this time, at the revelation of who my grandfather really was, that terror struck our family. He was diagnosed with lymphoma: a cancer of the blood.
I remember the icy night that I got the phone call. My grandpa was on his way back from the hospital and my Aunt Jody called crying for me and my mom to come over my grandpa’s house and wait for her and my grandparents. He was weak— very weak. And while his shoulders were still wide and masculine, he was wasting away. Color had abandoned him. His skin was pale, his remaining hair was white, and he was attired in gray sweats as he stumbled along the icy path from the car to his bed in the house. He progressed forward with baby-steps. The three menacing stairs, that he struggled to reach, would be a trying assessment. I stood there vigilantly, leading the way while preparing for a possible slip. First step: fine. Second: a little stumble but it was corrected by his weeping daughter. Last step: I caught him just before he cracked his shins.
He was a good man, a strong man, a family man, and a hard working man. We walked him to his bed where he lay mumbling for a glass of water. My grandma stood crying in the kitchen; my mom and aunt fetched a glass of water and a bendy straw. Shortly after drinking, my grandfather drifted into sleep.
In 2006, my grandfather, Joseph Indovina, surrendered to his battle with lymphoma. He did not lose, he would not lose, he was too strong to lose; he grew tired of fighting.
He was a good man. He looked fantastic in his casket, like a man who had served his family for nearly 50 years, a man who had served his nation when it was in need, like a man who had worked hard everyday of his life. Joseph Indovina was at peace, gliding through a sky of ethereal pillows. He was dressed in his favorite suit, and honored by not only his family, but also by the crisply folded American flag dedicated by the U.S. Army. I believe that many times death is a blessing, the Archangel Michael’s way of protecting us by ending the pain that people should not have to endure.
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