A Lifetime of Thanks
When you're here, you're home.
For as long as I can remember, those were the words I would hear whenever I would visit my grandfather.
From little on up, he always made it known that I was as welcome as anyone at the home he and my grandmother so proudly shared for decades.
Once inside, he'd tell me to help myself to all the goodies inside the kitchen, from hot bolognas in the refrigerator to Golden Sun chips in the snack drawer.
To say I was like a kid in a candy store would be an understatement of mass proportions.
As a kid, trips to Dorney Park, Wildwood, N.J., and games of checkers were among the many activities my grandfather and I did together.
Through the wisdom he imparted on me, I learned the nuances of how to double-jump and position my pieces in the corners to avoid capture.
I can also vividly recall the sound of the television, and the site of my grandfather seated in his favorite chair, as soon I entered the front door.
Not long after, the song from the hit television show, M.A.S.H. would blare from the television set.
That song became symbolic with my stay there, and I soon learned to memorize its lyrics and would hum it out loud when no one was nearby.
And, of course, who could forget the cheers and jeers that would echo from the living room during his beloved University of Notre Dame college football games.
Many a Saturday afternoon/evening was spent on the couch as my grandfather rooted on the team he has supported for nearly 80 years.
Decked out in his Fighting Irish hat, sweat shirt, and coat, he was in his glory for several hours each week.
It's examples such as those why that home was my favorite of all time from childhood well into my years as a young adult.
In recent years, crossword puzzles, namely America's Big X from the Globe, have become our favorite pastime.
Each and every time, his wealth of knowledge never ceased to amaze me as he would successfully blurt out the correct answers to clues that in many instances seemed foreign to me.
The fact that the activity kept his mind sharp never got lost on me, as there were many times where I would privately laugh to myself at his quick-witted responses.
As recently as last Sunday, he and I, with the help of an uncle, did our best to conquer the brainteaser. If memory serves me, I believe we answered all but two or three correctly.
A mere two days later, much to our dismay, we were told that my grandfather has lung cancer.
Just like that, his world has been turned upside down, his life threatened at the blink of an eye.
All this from a person who, on the surface, had been the picture of health in all the years I'd known him.
Rarely, up until recently, would he ever have to schedule a doctor's appointment aside from the customary ailment.
My grandfather is a special person, much like my grandmother was until her untimely passing a little over one year ago.
In fact, I've always told anyone who would listen that I couldn't have asked for a better pair of grandparents then they.
To this day, I always made it a point to visit with them at least once a week on average.
Now, our complete focus must shift toward his health, and to be there for him.
I think back to several years ago, when my grandfather ceased going to church due primarily to the worsened condition of his legs.
Ever since, walking has become an arduous task that often drained him of much of his energy.
Before that, he had been a proud member of the Sacred Heart Parish congregation and attended mass on a weekly basis for decades.
A devout Catholic, he prayed for our peace and health so that we could prosper and enjoy our lives.
Now, the tables have been turned, and it is he who needs our prayers more than ever.
As a result, this year's Thanksgiving holiday will assuredly take on a much greater meaning at our household as we give our thanks.
I know my family is thankful for the man who has been a husband, father, and grandfather to them our entire lives.
Whether this is to be our last holiday with him or not, my grandfather can take solace in the fact that he will always be in our heart.
Today, tomorrow, and always.