25- A Tribute to Grandpa

Two weeks ago, I turned 25. I’ve been meaning to write a post commemorating my birthday, but, I’ve had writer’s block trying to come up with something; I haven’t quite managed to put anything on paper. Because, when push comes to shove, 25 is just the year after 24, and right now, I am living a life that I really, truly love.


When I look back on my twenties, I will always remember 23 as the year that I left my life behind in Wisconsin and moved to France as a teaching assistant for “just one more year.”

23 will also be the year that Grandpa was diagnosed with cancer. It will be the year when everyone  pulled their weight to help with the doctor’s appointments, the chemotherapy, the radiation, and then the remission, while I did the best I could to be supportive from afar. 

24 will always be the year I was hired as a lectrice d’anglais. It was the year I put myself, my career, and my desires first. 24 was the year I decided to stay in France, because I knew that France was where I needed and wanted to be.

24 will also be the year when Grandpa’s cancer came back with full force.

24 is the year I decided to kiss Grandpa goodbye and leave him standing, crying, and waving from his front porch. It is the year I kept driving, teary-eyed, towards the airport, carrying the twinges of guilt and regret with me as I settled into a new life in northern France.

24 was the year I committed to bi-weekly phone calls and post cards. It was the year of dreading the bad news and waiting for the call. It had already been decided that, if and when the call came, I wouldn’t go home. In many ways, it is harder to grieve alone from so far away. In other ways, it’s easier.

I was on the way to a private lesson when I got the call. There wouldn’t be a service.

Cancer… it’s just one of those things… it changes people… it changes everything. It consumes the patient, their families, and friends, in the worst possible way. Even the smallest gestures don’t seem like enough to help your loved ones cope with the pain.


Grandpa was a lot of things: a husband, a father, a grandfather, a brother, an uncle, a nephew, a veteran, a son, a friend, a teammate, a faithful employee, a Packer’s/Badger’s/Brewer’s fan, a reader, a fisherman. 

Grandpa taught me how to fish, how to fly a kite, and how to bake kick-butt peanut butter cookies. Grandpa and I are both fans of The Walking Dead, Frank Sinatra’s Christmas album, and World War II history. Grandpa was always the first one to pull out his map whenever I told him about my newest travel destination.


Grandpa made a point to purchase a sweatshirt from each of his grandchildren’s universities– and wear them with pride, in rotation. But, my favorite thing Grandpa ever did was put all 8 of his grandchildren’s school photos on display on the wall of his basement workshop. Each grandchild had 13 photos– one for each year of school. It never failed to make us laugh or put smiles on our faces.

Grandpa has always been there. He was there to see me win three state championships in gymnastics. He was there to watch me walk across the stage to collect my college and high school diplomas. He was there to sit by my side and admire all of my photos from Normandy, the one place in Europe he’d dreamed of visiting. Every time I’ve come home from being overseas, he’s always been there. The next time I go home, it’s hard to know that it will be the first time he won’t be.


Now, 25– the year I have to learn to live without Grandpa, but also keep him in my memories. So, here’s to year 25— a year of baking more peanut butter cookies, never feeling guilty about taking naps, reading more books, and above all, remembering the importance of family. Here’s to 25— to continuing a life of happiness and fulfillment. A life that, I am sure, he would be proud of.



23 thoughts on “25- A Tribute to Grandpa

  1. I am so sorry for your loss. Two of my beloved grandparents passed away in the last two years and I know it’s just awful. I still have moments, that I cry because I can’t tell my grandma what’s going on in my life and I can’t ask her what she’s reading, and I’m sure you do and will feel this too. But it sounds like you had a great time with your grandpa while he was here. He sounds like a really sweet guy— the tradition with the college sweatshirts is so sweet it made me tear up!

    I’m sure your grandpa is so incredibly proud of you for everything you have accomplished and this is such a lovely tribute to him, he would be so grateful. Sending you condolences and hugs.

  2. Dana, this is a beautiful tribute to your grandfather. He sounds like a wonderful man.

    I know how hard it was for me to be in Ohio when my grandmother died last year. It was even harder when Dan lost his job a week later, and suddenly we couldn’t afford to fly out to Denver for the memorial service. I imagine being in France is just as difficult.

    Bisous & hugs

  3. Dana, you are gifted, truly a beautiful tribute. While I don’t know you I did know your grandpa. My mom Mary Weber was Arlene’s brother’s (Arnold) wife’s sister! I’m certain they are together, joyful in heaven, guiding each of us daily. Happy Birthday and many blessings to you!

  4. Wow…what a beautiful tribute! His Spirit & the life lessons he taught & lived will always be with you. He surely was a blessing to us all & having such a loving, beautiful family was a blessing to him!

  5. I am so sorry for your loss. Your grandpa sounded like an amazing person and loving grandfather. It’s hard to lose someone when you live so far away. This happened to my roommate and me a year apart while we were living in Spain. She opted not to fly home for the funeral because it happened right during midterms and exams and it would have been a nightmare to figure out how to get credit/push back the exams. She did Skype in for the service though and had her mom carry around a computer for the afterparty after the service so she did get to see her family.

    I did go home for my grandmother’s funeral because it happened just a week before my English teaching job was supposed to start. I was able fly back to NY and then back to Spain in time for classes to start. However, this is not always possible due to financial/visa constraints and what have you. It can be difficult to grieve when you live abroad so far away. 😦

    1. thank you so much! My grandpa didn’t want any service, so the next few days are really just everyone eating a lot of food at my grandma’s house.

      In a way it’s easier that I was not there; I get too emotionally invested.

      I’m so sorry for your loss as well. It’s hard being away but he knew I was thinking of him, and I got to speak with him on Monday when he was still sort of with it.


  6. Dana, what a great tribute, thought I was done with tears but relize I don,t think I will ever be done, Wish you were here with us, and miss you! Love Uncle Dave

    1. Thank you Uncle Dave! Yes, I think the tears will come at the most unexpected times. Love and miss you too, thanks for reading ! Xoox

  7. Losing someone while being here and not being able to go home is rough. I got that phone call a few days before Christmas in 2012 (wow, I can’t believe it’s been that long already). It sounds like you were close with your Grandpa. I’m so sorry for your loss.

  8. Dana, my dear, what a lovely tribute your Grandpa! I started out expecting the usual and ended up in tears. You are a babe in arms, and wise beyond your years. Happy 25!

  9. Beautifully written. What a great involved grandfather you had, which gives you wonderful memories. Happy belated birthday.

  10. Way to make me cry again ha this was so amazing! Wish you could be here this weekend. We miss and love you!!

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