Sunday night dinner is a tradition at the Wickes household.
It is a tradition that started when my grandfather passed. I was a sophomore in high school and he was the first person of real significance that ever passed in my life. The summer prior he had been diagnosed with prostate cancer. It was a very surreal time in my life.
Both sets of my grandparents had always been me and my brothers biggest sports fans. My Dad’s parents lived here in Reno and my Mom’s parents in Grass Valley. My Mom’s parents made as many visits as they could to watch us boys play whatever sport, but since my Dad’s parents lived here locally they never missed a game. They were at every little league and high school game. Except that year it changed. My grandma started coming solo. My grandfather was confined to his bed after his many surgeries and wasn’t able to leave the hospital. The season after that we played for a State Championship and I know that there is nothing more that my Grandpa would have loved to see.
There are two memories I will never forget. The first was my grandfather teaching me to play catch. I remember it like it was yesterday. We were in their backyard off of Greenbrae in Sparks. The same house and backyard that my father grew up in and learned to play catch. I often imagine it like the days of the movie The Sandlot. I can imagine my Dad and his Dad in the small backyard playing catch. My father probably wearing one of those oversized bill hats like the one that “Smalls” in the movie wears sporting an old style mitt. The second was a little league game when I was 11 years old at the Hilltop Fields. I was walking up to the plate and my Grandma shouted from the stands, “Hit one for Grandpa!” and I did. It was my first Little League homer.
My Grandpa didn’t speak much. He was a quiet man, but had the most incredible patience and he LOVED John Wayne. When he returned home with Hospice he spent his finally days watching all of the classic Wayne films. Those last few days were difficult. He wasn’t present most of the time.
The last time I saw him I said goodbye. My Grandma had Rio Bravo on the tv. We all gathered around his bed and were sharing stories. He kept waving his arms in the air even though his eyes were closed. It looked like he was reaching for something. I had never been around death before and it was hard to watch until my oldest brother said,
“It kind of makes you believe in angels, doesn’t it?”
In that moment my perspective changed. I felt the love in that room. 83 years of life flashing before my eyes. Several wars, over 50 years of marriage, two kids and three grandkids. In the months prior we had taken to looking through old photo albums with him. It was an amazing experience going back through his life with him. Each page we went through with him he narrated along the way. One of his most memorable stories was the time he and a friend (I think) stole a prop plane (I had no idea he knew how to fly).
So tonight as we gathered around the dinner table in the backyard I was reminded where it all started and why we were there. Sharing memories and taking time to acknowledge what is most important in life – family. I encourage you to do the same. And one day I hope you have the chance to believe in angles.