Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Stetson like the Hat


At the beginning of the summer I set out a plan to blog weekly. I had ideas written and placed pictures set to the side to post about my summer events. I had planned out a productive summer with school being out. I thought it would be easy balance working part time, maintaining my garden, canning food from my garden, and planning for my wedding in April. I had our wedding deadlines set and my planner pad all color coded. I was all set or so I thought.

About a week before the students got out for summer vacation I received a phone call mid-day saying my grandfather was admitted into the hospital and it did not look good. I couldn't cry at that moment because I still had 18 kids to make the end of the year great. So I smiled and blocked out the sad news for that moment.

The diagnosis came in and it was not what any granddaughter wants to hear. My Grandpa Stetson had lung cancer. The cancer was already at stage 3 and he did not know what his options were at that moment.  Now you see my Grandpa was something else. Picture a guy that always has a cigarette in his mouth, perfect hair in any occasion, jeans, t-shirt, and stood with a distinct stance. He was the picture of a perfect guy with the last name STETSON.  He enjoyed his westerns and thought if I were born a boy I should be named John Wayne (good thing I wasn't I would have been made fun of :)).

Being the first grandchild on both sides of my family there were many pictures because I was the first. I use the past tense because as I say in a saddened manner the pictures no longer exist. Hurricane Katrina destroyed my memories of my grandfather visiting when we were younger.

Now, after he was diagnosed he was sent home and I began to plan the trip to visit my grandfather with my dad. My dad is the apple of my eye and has my heart as well. I am a southern daddy's girl. I may be 28 but I never want to disappoint this Stetson. I was excited to see my dad for the first time since April and we planned to meet up when we flew in. See I live in Rhode Island, my parents in Mississippi, and grandparents in California so traveling gets exhausting. The trip was planned.

After having an 8 minute layover, nearly missing a flight, and running on exhaustion I finally met up with my dad at the airport. We drove 5 hours to our destination.  As I we arrived I knew deep down I had not mentally prepared myself for this.

You see being a teacher I am naturally a fixer and a nurturer. I can smile and maintain peace during chaos. I have always been able to smile when people should not be. Only certain people will see my stress during these times. When I walked inside I first noticed that my Grandpa Stetson's hair was a mess! I almost laughed because in 28 years I have never seen it this way. Physically I could see that the cancer was winning this battle due the amount of weight he lost and I held in the tears and smiled as the actor I was becoming in this situation. My heart ached as I watched my father see his dad, my grandmother trying desperately to find something that tasted normal to him, and grandpa becoming extremely sentimental. Don't get me wrong my grandfather would give you the shoes on his feet and give every dog a treat he saw. This was a different type of sentimental. He accepted his time to enter the next chapter that he was so quickly approaching. He spoke with ease about where he wanted to be buried, what he wanted me to do when I grew up, where he wanted things to go, and showing me everything he had collected through the years. Each conversation I held in the tears and smiled listening patiently to my grandfather forgetting things. The cancer had spread into his brain and his throat. He was becoming forgetful and increasingly frustrated as he could not remember things and struggled to talk. I was so happy he was not hurting though or he was the better actor and stayed awake through most of our trip and visited.

I worked harder than I ever had during the week comforting my father, grandmother, and grandfather.  I was excited to share with him the details of my upcoming wedding knowing that things were not what I dreamed with him going to watch me walk down the aisle with my best friend. He said he always dreamed of having an Italian Sauce and dipping bread in it. Well I have a great recipe that is my fianc├ęs grandmothers.  I told him I could do that.

Little did I know that one wish would be his last one granted.  I made his sauce and he ate very little. He was happy as can be. The next day it was time for me to go home. I sat cuddled with him on the couch until it was time to go as I did throughout the week. I watched him struggle not to cry saying I wish I could make your wedding. That time it was a little harder to be the actor. Some tears fell and we both swallowed them like we were tough and smiled. When we left I had a feeling it was goodbye forever.

On the way to the airport it was quiet in the car. When my father and I talked it was about anything random. He knew what I knew and that's all that needed to be known. I could see him doing what I have learned to do as well and that is to swallow the tears and change the topic! Who knows what we talked about but we did for 5 hours. Midway I received a text that my grandfather was admitted into the hospital. Within 1 week 1 day of having his Italian Sauce, the last thing he would eat, my grandfather lost his battle to lung cancer.

So why would I call this blog “Stetson like the "Hat"? Well ever since I can remember no one can say my last name, spell it, or pronounce it until I say "Stetson like the hat". Most people say "oh yeah" or” oh ok I get it now".  Well I guess the story goes that my grandfather’s nickname was "Hat" and no one really knew. My parents attended the funeral and were setting up arrangements prior with my grandmother. While they were deciding on the stone they decided to put a hat on it and that's when it just so happened that the story came out that was his nickname. That makes me smile. Though he can't attend my wedding and my kids will never have the pleasure of meeting a man who just had a kind heart, I know that "Hat" Stetson is smiling and happy. He will be with me in spirit and always watching over his great grandkids. He will always be the best guy with the cigarette, stance, and jeans! I hope in heaven (which he was saved before he passed) he is happy as can be surrounded by his pets, watching westerns, and listening to Elvis.



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