Losing my biggest cheerleader

Until a year ago, I had one big cheerleader in my life, one person that had always believed in me, that had always respected me, and always loved me. Unfortunately he had been sick for as long as I can remember. His sickness got worse and worse, until last year, when it got beyond the point that doctors could help him. It was time to say goodbye to the one person that had always been there for me, the one person that always made me feel safe and respected.

I have always been extremely close with my grandparents. My parents where both working a lot when I was young, so every breakfast, lunch and dinner I had with them, at least during the weekdays. The brought me to school, they picked me up and they took care of me when I was sick. They just where always there for me. Unlike my sister, who was loved by my parents, they meant more to me, I found my parental love in my grandparents, mostly my grandpa.

I remember many sleepovers and trips with just me and my grandparents. Once they even took me on a holiday, just the 3 of us. My grandpa would always tell me that they did this because I too deserved some fun. He knew what was happening at home, he knew about the abuse, and he tried to take me away from there, aways from my parents, as often as possible. He wanted me to have fun, he allowed me to be myself, he wanted me to feel careless, free and save.

Unfortunately when I got older, my grandpa got sicker. He had a lung disease, Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), and every year he was able to do less because of this. When I was 12, he was no longer able to take care of his garden, he was no longer able to climd the stairs every night to get into bed, he was no longer able to keep the house clean. There was no other option, he had to leave the house he build for my grandmother and move to a small apartment, without a spare bedroom. In the months before he died he often told me how hard this decision was. He knew I would not have my safe place anymore, but he just couldn’t get into bed anymore. He tried to continue as long as possible until he just really couldn’t do it and for some nights he slept on the couch downstairs. He regrets taking away my safe place, he wished he could have cared for me longer, they way he did when I was young, he wished he could have done more. But I don’t blame him for anything, because he had always done so much for me, as much as he could. Often even more.

When my grandparents moved to their apartment, me and my parents moved into their house. Slowly all the traces of my happy place disappeared. The house was completely renovated and transformed, and in this house, the abuse continued. It was hard to hold on to the happy memories, the good things that had happened in the house that was now becoming a place of pain. I still visited my grandparents often, but their apartment never became a place similar to what the house had been, I feel like or years, I didn’t have a home.

What never changed was the love and respect I found at my grandpa, no matter how much I fucked up, they would always love me and always be there for me. I remember one day I was supposed to be in school but decided to spent the day drinking in a bar. When I went outside for a smoke, I saw my grandpa on the other side of the square, waving at me. He came to the bar and we had tea together, afterwards I helped him with his groceries and we went home. He never got angry with me. Never.

When I went to university, my grandparents where one of the few reasons for me to come back to the city I had grew up in. Whenever my grandpa would get sick or had to go to the hospital, I left everything to be with him. We no longer were able to do things together, he was no longer able to do many of the things he used to do, but we could talk, for hours. He would tell me about his life when he was young, about his job, about his gardens, about the books he read, the house he build, about my grandma and about the war. I would tell him about my life, the things I did, my sports, my studies, my friends. When I told him a story he would just close his eyes and smile. He was imagining me in my life, he was make up images for the things about me he was no longer able to see. Often when I was telling him a story and he was making up his images to go with it, he would suddenly open his eyes, look at me extremely proud and tell me how great I am.

We would tell each other all our stories and discussed all our thoughts, struggles and ideas. When there was something wrong, when I didn’t feel good, I visited him. He would not only solve my problems, he would also make sure I was smiling before I would leave him to go home. He was extremely smart, extremely patient and a really good listener. He believed I was able to do anything and whenever I thought something was too much, he would provide me with the strength, energy, dedication and some tips I needed to finish. He knew me completely, he knew what I needed even when I did not, especially when I did not.

When I got my ADHD diagnosis, I remembered my mom saying, I knew there was something wrong with you, I knew you were different. My grandpa got angry with her about this, he did not agree, I was not different, I was just Anna, the most beautiful person he had known.

My grandpa, my cheerleader, the person that encouraged me to be me, always. I wish he would still be here. In the months before he passed away, I have spend so much days in bed next to him, telling stories, discussing everything, while holding his hand. I thought I had said everything I wanted to say, I thought he had told me everything I wanted to hear from him. But from the minute that he died, I have been looking everywhere for him, for his love and support. I suddenly realized I was alone, at the toughest (well, at least the hardest one since I started university) moment of my life. I had lost the only person that was allowed to see my emotions, at the moment I needed him most.

I wish there was a way to just spend 10 minutes with him, once a year or something. I wish there was a way I could continue to ask him for his help, just when I really, really need it. But there is no way, he won’t come back, he can’t help me anymore. He used to tell me that I will be great at my life, that I am able to do everything I want, that I will find a way to live an amazing life. But without him telling me this, whenever I need it to hear, things have become much harder. I know that he raised me well, he thought me well, and because of this he is inside me in a way, he gave me his strength and wisdom during all the conversations we had, during all the times he believed in me when nobody else did. He just made everything so much easier. And I miss him. A lot.

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