It was the kind of text that takes your breath away, while your eyes fill with tears.
This was the envelope my grandfather, Grandy, saved in his drawer. The articles are neatly clipped and focus on a service recognition I received my senior year of high school. I didn't know Grandy had saved these clippings, but it shouldn't surprise me.
He was there for everything, the first 20 years of my life. He was a postal inspector who was able to retire at 55 years of age, so he was around whenever we needed him. Pediatrician appointments, early school dismissals, dance recitals, concerts, awards nights. Sunday night dinners and nights on the porch overlooking the garden he lovingly tended. A patriot, a family man, a friend, my Grandy was someone who radiated goodness from every cell in his being. I loved to listen to the stories he told about his family, growing up in Brooklyn, and dating my Grandma.
It's been over 15 years since Grandy has passed away. He never knew about 9/11, didn't see me graduate college or my sister graduate law school. He didn't see us get married or get to meet his great grandchildren. I was a college student when he died, still a kid in so many ways. At almost 36, there is no denying I am fully a grown up now: an experienced teacher, a wife, a mother. I wish so much he could have been there to see this transition, but the person I am now was shaped by Grandy and his unconditional love and pride.
A few days before my mother sent that text, I was driving to work, radio on, thinking about nothing more than the day ahead. The first few notes of Willie Nelson's "Always on my Mind" started playing and I felt like someone was squeezing my heart. I was back in my grandparent's backyard in the summer, and I could see my Grandy with his black cassette player, sitting in his lawn chair and hear that very song playing. It was one of his favorites, part of the soundtrack of my childhood. My reaction was so visceral, it surprised me but filled my heart with memories of Grandy. Days later, my mother told me about the envelope Grandy saved and I couldn't help but think perhaps he was sending me one of his trademark hugs the only way he could. It was like sunshine to my soul.
It is a priceless gift to have someone so deeply in your corner, someone rooting for you no matter what. Grandy is still giving me that gift, 15 years after leaving this earth. And though he is gone from sight, he has not left my heart for one second....he is always on my mind, always on my mind.