Then, on Father’s Day, I wrote out a thoughtful message about my father and two grandfathers to share with my friends on social media, reflecting on what they’d done for me. I recalled how Meriel helped mold me who I am today. He instilled in me my love of working with words.
By the time I was age 5, just old enough to fully appreciate him, my grandfather had grown sick with a sudden lung disease — not the result of smoking or exposure to any dangerous environment or anything so expected, but by mere cruel fluke. As it became difficult for him to get even out of bed, I would lie next to him as a child and we’d spend quality time reading, writing in his diary together, or making up stories together. I distinctly remember dictating to him tales of the wolfman and Frankenstein (Thornberry’s toy store in the mall had Universal Monsters action figures that I was into at the time), and he would pen the stories onto the page. Without him, I would not likely have become a writer as I am today.
With all of this on my mind, on Thursday night, I dug out a couple of his old diaries, which he’d used to take an account of each day with little else to do as he spent the last years of his proud, accomplished while bound to his bed.
The first entry was on Christmas Day, 1985, when he received the diary as a gift from Thelma. The days that followed were full of ups and downs. The sickness was still new to him; the earliest entries showed him resolved to fight it, so often finishing an entry with, “Tomorrow will be better.”
He kept the scores of University of Kentucky football and basketball games, and remarked on when the team played exceptionally or poorly. He noted each phone call and visit he had with old friends and family, particularly with my father and I — observing when Dad sounded “jubilant” or I was “unusually quiet.” He was especially proud of me, his only grandchild, and marveled at my ability to read at that age and the things I’d say, as any proud grandparent would. (One amusing entry told of me proclaiming that I would be a “rich man” one day; clearly, I wasn’t anticipating going into the newspaper industry at that time.) He talked of driving to Louisa and having a Thanksgiving feast with his family, what a gloriously scenic drive it was — and how he’d stayed up all night before, racked with doubts and fears as any person facing illness toward the end of his life might.