Cancer, Thief of Grandfathers
Cancer is a specter in so many of our lives. I know it haunts me, for the people it has stolen from me. Cancer is one of the meaner deaths, taking vitality and strength away before finally taking life itself. Watching a tough and strong person lose his or her fight can leave you feeling helpless in a way that few things can. You feel like there’s nothing you can do.
The first theft was my grandfather. Ray. It was prostate cancer that stole him, hollowing him out from the inside until he was a husk of himself. I was close to my grandfather. Other than my own father, he was my main model for what a man should be. Sitting in his lap reading, his deep voice vibrating through his chest against my ear, was one of the safest places I have ever been in my life. He supported me in my dreams and aspirations, strong in his belief that his granddaughters would make a difference to the world. His pride in me was a motivator in so many ways. He is part of why I teach and why I write.
I wasn’t there when he died. I was in Alaska, teaching language arts and Spanish at a rural school and living in a community where I might be late to work because there was a moose blocking the path. It was an adventure, and he delighted in the idea that I was having such an experience. He told me not to come back to watch him die. We had said our goodbyes on a farewell tour to Montana the year before. He’d spent some of his youth there as part of the Civilian Conservation Corps, and my family’s last gift to him was a trip, allowing him to see the land he had loved so much one more time.
I missed it when cancer stole another father from our lives, too. My husband’s father fought hard, tooth and nail, through three separate invasions. We were on our way to see him when he lost, too weakened by the earlier battles to win a third time.
Grandpa Fred lived to see his son married to me, a move he approved heartily. He threw himself into being a grandfather to my daughter from a previous marriage and the daughter of his own bloodline equally. I like to think we made his last years better, by bringing him new people to love. He was a wonderful grandfather and father to us, and we feel his loss in our lives every day.
So, yes, cancer has left its mark on our family, like the families of so many people. My daughters missed the chance to grow up knowing these two great men. Maybe there was nothing I could do to save the grandfathers cancer stole from us. That’s why I’ll always support charities like this one. Raising funds for research and study so that, in the future, no one else has to suffer like this? That’s something I can do.
Samantha Bryant is a middle school Spanish teacher by day and a mom and novelist by night. That makes her a superhero all the time. Her debut novel, Going Through the Change: A Menopausal Superhero Novel is now for sale by Curiosity Quills. You can find her online on her blog, Twitter, on Facebook, on Amazon, on Goodreads, on the Curiosity Quills page, or on Google+.