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When someone you love becomes a memory, that memory becomes a treasure

I'm going to dedicate this post to my grandfather who passed away last year at the age of 90 due to cancer. My grandfather was a special person. He was witty, sweet, and had a heart of gold. Even in his late 80's, he was incredibly strong, both mentally and physically. He was a hard worker and a family man. The love he had for his children and grandchildren, I will remember all my life. The memory of my grandfather will live on forever in my heart.

I can vividly recall one instance which exemplifies my grandfather's love for me. When I was a little girl, maybe 6 or 7 years old, I was in Greece visiting my grandfather in his village. His village was tucked away deep in the mountains in Greece isolated from the rest of the society. I loved the village. It's so beautiful there, and usually very peaceful. In the village you would find me aimlessly roaming around outside all day and sometimes even playing amongst the many farm animals--donkeys, goats, chickens--you name it, my grandfather had them all. One day I was outside trying to lay out a shirt to dry (no washers or dryers in the village) and a rooster came up from behind me and attacked me. I panicked and started to scream, but before I could blink my grandfather appeared with a knife in hand. He grabbed the rooster by the neck and cut off its head-- right there in front of me. This sounds like something that could be scarring for a child, but the rooster attacking me was scary, and in that moment I could truly feel my grandpa's love and understood it was his natural instinct to want to protect me. Plus the rooster made for a yummy dinner.

My grandfather was a very active person and incredibly sharp, both mentally and physically. Even when he retired he was always finding ways to keep busy in the village. He tended the farm animals, went for walks, did handy work, cooked, cleaned, built things, and would go to the local cafe to have coffee and chat with friends. He also had himself some good companionship--my grandmother. He kept an active lifestyle and had a nice woman to love. Life was good.

Then my grandma passed away, and of course that brought on sadder days, but it also contributed to the demise of my grandpa's active lifestyle. My aunt and uncle didn't want my grandfather to stay alone in the village, so they made him come stay with them in the city. And although he was in the company of his family, everyone was busy entertaining their own agendas. He didn't seem to know what to do with himself in the city, his life was in the village. He didn't have his animals tend to, or the local cafe to chat with his friends, or a place to call his home. Obviously he was still sad because of my grandmother, but he also stopped keeping himself occupied with something, leaving him sort of lifeless.

A few years went by after my grandmother's passing, and my parent's decided my grandfather should come visit us in America for a little bit. This coincidently happened just as my dad was getting ready to open up his new restaurant. This actually worked out in my grandfather's favor. At the ripe age of 74, he landed himself a full-time job. At our restaurant. And it was wonderful. He didn't need a job nor did he really need money, but he had a life again. He was busing tables, washing dishes, peeling potatoes, and eating daily like a king. Somehow he even managed to make small talk with customers which was ironic considering he didn't even speak English. Using just hand gestures, facial expressions, and a big smile, he figured a way to effectively communicate with people. He smiled a lot those days, but more importantly he seemed alive again. He was a big help to us during that time, and I think he genuinely felt happy that he could be useful. He now had a purpose. More importantly he kept busy, which kept his mind off of things he shouldn't be thinking about. This was the happiest I've seen my grandfather since my grandmother died. Eventually he had to pack up his bags, and head back to Greece again.

I continued visiting my grandpa through the years in Greece, but he always seemed kind of down. He was always pacing around my aunt's house and talking to himself. When I'd leave Greece to come back to America, he always made it a point to mention it might be the last time I'll ever see him again. And although he was getting old, he wasn't even sick or unhealthy or confined to a wheelchair. He was in better health than some people half his age. But he didn't care, he stopped keeping active, and you can tell he didn't care for living anymore. I just couldn't help but feel sad for him. I personally think he may have been better off staying in the village by himself all these years, he may have been lonely, but he loved it there, and I think he would have found things to occupy his time with, and that might have made him a little bit happier.

The last time I went to Greece was shortly after my grandfather was diagnosed with cancer. This time I had a feeling it may be the last time I was going to see him. So I really tried to make the most of it. My grandfather loved massages, so every time I walked passed him I'd give him a mini massage. It made him so happy. I took lots and lots of pictures, and even more videos with him. He got so annoyed at times, but I think secretly he loved it. He yelled at me one day for taking too many pictures and he asked me in a sarcastic manner "Don't you have something better to do with your time?" I responded "Yes I do, but I'd rather sit here and annoy you." Most times though, I would just sit there next to him, saying nothing and just taking in his presence, and that was enough. I was right, that would be the last summer in Greece I'd be spending with him.

I miss my grandpa, and sometimes I still don't believe he's gone. He always seemed invincible. Even in his last moments at a ripe age of 90 his mind was 100% there, unfortunately his body was failing him, so the time was probably just right for him to go.

I'd like to believe my grandfather is in a happier place now alongside his true love, my grandmother. In the meantime, I'll think of the happy days when he was alive, those are the ones that will always stay with me. The beautiful summers in the village. My grandfather visiting us in America and getting another chance at life by working at the restaurant. Just him being here for the beginning of his son's first business is special in itself. My last time in Greece with him. These memories will live on forever. S'agapo Pappou <3

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