I have a mole on the side of my body, right between my right breast and armpit. It used to look like most of my other moles, small, flat, and brown, but it looks different now, and I’m kind of freaking out about it. Not because I’m scared it’s cancerous or anything like that, but because this mole is special, as my grandpa, Poppo, had the exact same mole in the exact same spot.
For those of you who follow this blog, but don’t know me in real life, my Poppo died at the end of this past December. If you do know me or read me, then you’ll know that this has been a devastating, however expected, loss. I won’t go into everything again (you can read more about him here and here) but he co-raised me and we were very close when I was growing up. For over a decade before he died, he suffered from Alzheimer’s Disease. In the end he didn’t really remember any of us except my grandmother, and he lived full-time in a special home for people with memory loss.
A lot of people aren’t close to their grandparents, so they don’t really get it, and they say or want me to say that he was like a father to me, but it wasn’t exactly like that. I never had a father, so I wouldn’t know what that means. Poppo was my best friend and one of the only people who has ever made me feel completely safe and loved. Years ago a sentence like that would have never appeared in my writing, because feeling safe and loved is not funny, or really very interesting as far as the big story goes, but getting older and trying to get healthy mentally makes you say and feel all kinds of things that aren’t super amusing. I have lived for almost my whole life genuinely believing that I just can’t seem to do anything right, but my grandpa’s love always got through to me. He never made me feel ashamed or ugly.
I’ve been hard on myself for mourning so deeply. I can’t figure out why it still hurts so much, especially since he was so old and sick, so ready to go, and went so peacefully. But I suppose watching the person you love most in the entire world exhale for the final time doesn’t fit neatly into the definition of “peaceful.” It was harder in the end to watch him leave his earthly body because I had stuffed down my feelings about slowly losing who he was long before that. Just as my favorite mole is changing, I watched my grandpa change before my eyes for years and then had to turn away. It was too painful to see him, too difficult to accept that he was alive but not there to read my stories or meet the person I want to spend the rest of my life with (who reminds me a lot of him, by the way. Sometimes cliches work out). Of course, unlike the weird, raised, discolored mole (TMI), which I will probably have to get removed, my Poppo never turned into anything ugly. He was beautiful to the very end and beyond, from his last breath with most of my family by his side to the amazing pictures we shared at his rosary to the strength he gave my cousin to deliver his beautiful eulogy.
I know it will get easier, because there are more funny stories about Poppo than sad times, but I will miss him forever.