Today’s guest writer is my 17 year old son, Trevor. Trevor is the youngest of the five Smith kids, he excels in academics as well as athletics. He is Sports Editor for the school newspaper. His future plans include playing football at the college level and majoring in civil or construction engineering. The following essay was written for his college comp class.
The Greatest Influence
With the closest of family members standing shoulder to shoulder from wall to wall, a room had never felt so empty. The tiled floor beneath my feet caught tears from every angle. Soft sobs echoed in my ears, while utter disbelief filled my eyes. The stale gray curtains slightly opened to a window revealing stale gray skies. The confusion in my mind matched the confusion on my relatives’ faces. The questions harassed my thoughts. Why him? Why now? In the what appeared to be empty hospital, my Grandpa Larry lay in bed with off-white sheets and light blue blankets pulled up just over his waist. He crept into the closing stages of his fight with cancer.
My Grandpa Larry stood 5’10” with a potbelly in front and a balding head on top. His plaid long-sleeve shirts and his khaki pants stood above the dark brown moccasins that completed his daily attire. The smile that greeted every customer at Olliff-Boeve Furniture store gathered laughs from his grandchildren on the weekends when his bottom dentures popped out in unison with the pulling of his “Boeve Ears.” The components of love, humor, and respect erected this model of a man I called Grandpa.
My mom still exhibits many of the characteristics of her father. She’s a hint over five feet with short sandy-blonde hair. Her oversized heart and jubilant smile barely fit on her small frame. Her strong spirit that carries on from my grandpa keeps my siblings and I morally sound. My dad has the same balding head my grandfather had on top of an athletic body. He’s tough, but his love and humor almost replicate the way my grandpa loved and laughed.
At the age of 12, I lived life without many worries. Chubby cheeks and big dimples defined my face. Ornery and outgoing outlined my personality. I looked up to all of my siblings and wanted nothing more than to spend every moment with them, whether it involved playing capture the flag or even just watching television. Young and at ease, I had little experience with the disease of cancer and the tragedy of losing a loved one.
My grandpa always made people laugh. If my grandpa hadn’t made someone laugh then they hadn’t ever talked to him. As I sat in my grandpa’s living room one evening, he came in as serious as could be. He said, “Bubba, where’d you put that box?”
Although a little scared, I answered, “What box, Grandpa?”And after a little grin he replied, “The box you stood on to kiss the elephant’s butt.” Humor and Larry Boeve went hand in hand.
The Alcoholics Anonymous building, otherwise known as the AA house, wasn’t a place I had much knowledge of. My family and I went there once a year for something my parents called my grandpa’s “other birthday.” I didn’t really know what it meant until I listened to my grandpa on one of those “other birthdays.” Surrounded by many unknown people much older than myself, and my immediate family members, I shrank into an aged, abnormal-smelling couch. My Grandpa Larry took the podium in front and said, “Hi, I’m Larry.” After a unified “Hi, Larry” from everyone else in the building, my grandpa began speaking. He spoke about overcoming his alcohol addiction and remaining sober for 22 years. Not on y had he remained sober from alcohol, he had not smoked for 20 years. For the first time in my life, I saw more than just a smiling joker who never failed at making my laugh. I saw a man who overcame two demanding addictions in order to please the ones who loved him the most, including myself.
In 2005, my grandpa was diagnosed with lung cancer. I didn’t really understand cancer and the severity of the disease, but when my mom cried while telling me about it, I knew it couldn’t be good. In the following months, I witnessed firsthand the disease of cancer.
For months I rarely got to spend time with my Grandpa Larry because of the cancer treatment he went through. Many times he had to be out of town facing torturous treatments of chemo and radiation. I didn’t understand why I couldn’t see him or why when I did see him he wasn’t the same “him.” He didn’t joke around as much and became frustrated by the smallest of things. This man who loved without limit was out of his element. Not knowing why became the hardest part of my young life.
Month after month my grandpa, along with my family, rode a rollercoaster. Ups and downs piled up in our lives. Once everything seemed like it could improve, the doctors would figure out the cancer had spread and the roller coaster would drop into another decline.
In February of 2006, the roller coaster hit rock bottom. In January, things had started to look up, as usual. But later that month, it changed quickly. My grandpa had to be put in the hospital. For over a week I made frequent visits and became very acquainted with his hospital room. On February 1, 2006, the world came crashing down. As I stood near the doorway of his hospital room, I observed things I’ll never forget. I looked and listened at my mother next to my grandpa. The cancer had taken complete control and turned my grandpa into an entirely different person. He didn’t look the same, and he definitely didn’t act the same. This laughing, loving man lay motionless with his eyes wide open. After I heard my mom say, “It’s okay to go, Dad. It’s okay.” I left the room. My older sister Lexie and I walked down the hallway into an empty room After sitting for minutes, one of my aunts came in. When she finally said, “He’s gone, guys,” my sister and I broke down. Tears smothered my face. One of the most influential men I’ll ever know had passed away.
Just a few days later at my grandpa’s funeral, the sight was as unbelievable as losing him. Every relative from my mom’s side I could have possibly known, along with countless other people, appeared at the funeral. The chapel didn’t even have enough seating for everybody, including the downstairs of the funeral home. After what seemed like an eternity of reminiscing and crying, we exited the funeral home. As we stood outside the funeral home I saw something I’ll never forget. My father, a man who showed such little emotion, cried relentlessly.
I didn’t know much as a young boy, but the experience through my Grandpa Larry’s cancer taught me many life lessons. The kind that isn’t’ taught in school. I learned tomorrow isn’t guaranteed, so I should always live life to the fullest. I also learned that the values of love and respect should be given in order to receive them, and giving them can affect lives beyond one’s lifetime.