A few years back, we almost skipped Thanksgiving.  It was a light suggestion that we had batted around because of what my family had been through just a few weeks prior.  But tradition won over, and I’m glad it did because there was so much to be grateful for that year.

My grandfather was a walker and that was the secret to his health.  Even when he lived with us in Texas, during the scorching 100 degree afternoons, he would walk to the convenience store to grab lottery tickets.  He would walk to the library and buy old National Geographic magazines that we would cut pictures from and glue together into collages (he had a genius designer eye).  When he moved to Los Angeles to be closer to the rest of my extended family, every morning he would walk two blocks to the corner store to pick up a newspaper.  Every morning, 15 minutes back and forth.  And one morning he didn't come back.

I was at work when my mom called me – “Your grandfather’s been in an accident.  He’s been rushed to the hospital.”  This was my dad’s father and the call from my mom underscored the seriousness of it all.

My grandfather had been walking to get his daily newspaper when an old lady, backing out of her driveway, didn't see him and hit him with her car.  He was rushed to the USC hospital and because of his age, had to have several operations immediately.  It was touch and go for awhile - he had multiple broken bones and massive internal damage to his organs.  My parents flew to LA and stayed for a week.  He got better, regained consciousness but couldn't talk because of breathing tubes.  My sister was in college, in the middle of exams, and I was working at the time.  We asked if we should come out but my grandfather insisted that no one travel to see him.  He was stabilizing, my parents went home and my sister flew out to visit.  Then one night, my cousin called and told me that I needed to be there as soon as possible.  I booked a flight for the next morning.  I met my dad, who had also flew in that morning, at LAX and we rode in silence to the hospital.  He had an infection and was in the ICU.  Siri had sat with him all night and he wasn't going to make it.

When I walked into ICU, I didn't recognize him.  I've always read in books how people look smaller – child-sized – in the middle of the hospital beds surrounded by all the tubes and massive medical equipment but didn't realize until I saw him that it wasn't an exaggeration.  This tiny figure was my grandfather, air force man, father of four, published author and always so silent and strong.  He, who had always traveled to every grandchild’s graduation, was going to miss my sister’s that spring.  We had counted on him, the consummate walker, to outlive all of us. 

When he passed that day, we were all in the room with him.  One of my other cousins, a doctor who did his residency in that very hospital, told us when he was gone.  My grandfather died in November.

And my family grew stronger in November.  We took a picture that evening that my grandfather died, an impromptu family photo, all of us gathered at my grandmother’s house, smiling and holding onto each other.  A cousin got married that next spring and the family got together to toast and celebrate at her wedding.  And my cousins all came to watch my sister graduate from college that May.

So when this time of year comes around again, I think of my family and how grateful I am for all of them.  And I think of my grandfather, who taught me the joy of writing and passed on his love of horses, and I’m glad for his memory in November.

Siri dug up this old picture and captioned it "Grandpa is not amused."  There are so many pictures that we've found of him wearing a serious expression while us grand kids ham it up.  Yep - that's me and Siri in matching tie-dye shirts.  We were awesome.