It took me several days to write this, as every word would bring back memories and my emotions would take over.
My paternal grandma and grandpa died recently; Nana and Papa we called them for as long as I can remember. While many people my age have lost or will soon lose their grandparents, for me this was especially sad lost. While most grandchildren will see their grandparents a few times each year for their birthdays and Christmas and whatnot, my sister and I spent several years basically living out of their house. For myself, this was first through fourth grade.
At the time both my parents worked long hours, and no one would have been home to drop us off or pick us up from school. While the elementary school was right down the street from us, they understandably didn't want us as little children going to and from school by ourselves. Therefore we ended up getting dropped off early in the morning at Nana and Papa's house by my dad, and picked up late in the afternoon by my mom. We'd get home just in time to have dinner then go to bed, and then do the same routine the next morning. Occasionally, we'd get to stay at their house overnight.
When we'd get to stay at Nana and Papa's overnight, Nana would make dinner for us; I would always look forward to when she made tamales, a family favorite. Nana and I would also end up staying up late playing Nintendo, the original Nintendo, the NES. We'd play through games like the Super Mario trilogy until we go to the end. Sitting there playing video games in the game room with Nana I would say is one of my most memorable and enjoyable experiences from when I was a child.
I'd also go with Nana on walks around the neighborhood that she would take just for exercise or for a quick visit at one of her friends.
I spent a lot of time with Papa as well; he would regularly take me with him to go to the doughnut store and we'd get doughnuts. I would also go grocery shopping with him. We'd also go golfing and he even had me take golfing lessons at one point. That and just spending time with him when he was in the garage or running general errands. I remember going to the vet with him one time with their cat Reggie; he hadn't been eating and got really skinny, and unfortunately had to put him down. That's never something that you want to do, and I think he was happy that I was with him so that he wasn't by himself.
My first time leaving my home state, California, was also with Nana and Papa. One of my uncles lived in Texas at the time and they were going out to see him for a couple weeks. It was during the summer and somehow I ended up going with them. I remember that my Nana took a picture of me sleeping in the back seat of the car, which I didn't know about until several months later when the pictures were developed (yes, this was back when pictures were taken on film and had to be developed); I remember getting mad at her for taking it because I didn't like the picture of me sleeping. That picture was saved in an album somewhere, and I would love to see that and the rest of the pictures from that trip again.
We also went to Sea World during that trip; I don't remember much about it but I seem to remember enjoying it.
I guess you could say that I was fortunate for spending a lot of time with my grandparents as a child, however I still have my regrets. When I was 17, I enlisted in the Air Force; I left home and everything behind. Over the next 18 years, I would only visit home once every few years, and talk to Nana and Papa maybe a handful of times every year. I was oblivious to the time passing, putting everything off telling myself that I'll make up the time later when I inevitably move closer to them.
Well, that inevitability came in 2019 when I moved to Arizona, however shortly after that COVID became a problem and travel was discouraged. I didn't want to risk visiting them and getting them sick either given that they were getting old at this point.
I did manage to visit them a couple of years ago while they were still coherent and living at home, and I'm glad I got to see them. By the time I had planned to see them again this year, Papa suddenly died a couple weeks before I was planning on coming out. Nana managed to make it long enough for me to see her and talk to her for one last time, and ended up going a couple weeks after that.
While I was gone for those 18 years, I started my own family and raised my own children, which I don't regret at all. I regret being away from my parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins for that long though. During that time everyone has gotten older and have moved on with their lives. I even have a couple of cousins that were babies when I left, and are now grown adults, one with children, and I can't remember seeing either of them in person but once or twice during that time period.
At the very least, I've made up the time with my mom. Since I've moved to Arizona, I not only stayed at her house for over a year, but since then we get together at least once a week to have dinner. I'd like to see the rest of my family that often, but my dad's side of the family still all live in California, and the entirety of my mom's side of the family have moved to Idaho.
I guess what I'm getting to is don't take time for granted. Your family and friends won't be around forever, so you should spend the time with them while you can, and don't be a stranger. If I had to do it all over again, I'd at the very least visit more often.
I love you Nana and Papa, and I hope to see you both again some day in Heaven.