I was 10 years old with not a care in the world, enjoying a trip with my grandparents from Vermont to Maine. Then, I watched my grandfather die.
The day began early, as I jumped out of bed eager to get the day started. I was going to ride with my grandparents from my house in Vermont to theirs in Maine. We had breakfast with Mom and Dad, and then it was into the '65 Rambler and the fun began. Gram decided she would drive since it was a bright, sunny, mild March day. I can remember the sweet aroma of Cryst O' Mint Lifesavers filling the car as my grandfather had quit smoking years before and constantly had a lifesaver in his mouth. We played games and laughed as Gram drove through the rolling hills of Vermont on Route 2.
It was getting close to lunch time and they decided we would stop at the next restaurant, which turned out to be Brickell's Diner in the small, yet busy city of St. Johnsbury. We crammed into a booth in a mostly full diner, with Gram sitting across from myself and Grampa. We had what I remember was a delicious sandwich and then it was time for dessert. I chose blueberry pie. I was two bites into my slice when it happened. Grampa collapsed on the floor next to me. Even though I was barely ten years old, I knew immediately what was happening. He had suffered two heart attacks previously, and I knew this was the third.
Gram began screaming as she knelt on the floor and cradled him in her arms, crying, rocking, saying his name over and over. I can remember being aware that, as my grandfather lay dying, it was business as usual around us. People kept eating, waitresses kept serving, cooks kept cooking. I could hear the sound of dishes and glasses clattering over the cries of my grandmother. I looked down and saw Grampa's eyes were open, but even at my age, I knew he wasn't seeing anything. Eventually, after what seemed like hours but was only 15 minutes, emergency personnel arrived, placed him on a gurney, covered him completely with a blanket, and our trip was over.
A local pastor took Gram and I to his home as we waited for Mom and Dad to make the three hour trip from Burlington and I tried to imagine what my father was thinking as he knew his father was gone. The way they handled that day's events amazes me to this day, over 45 years later.
I found out at the age of 10 that our time on Earth can come to an end at any time and you should take nothing for granted, especially the time spent with family and friends. I still miss Grampa.
(Even nearly 5 decades later, I still think of that day often, and recently I had a chance to put these feelings on paper in a Composition Class at SUNY Morrisville. Thanks for "listening.")