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I’m writing this at nearly midnight Monday January 27th, in Calgary Alberta, waiting for a phone call I know will signal the end of my grandfather’s life in Windsor Ontario.  This morning I received a phone call that my grandfather had a stroke.  I had no idea of the severity at the time, and wouldn’t find out until much later the complications involved.  They aren’t important for this blog.  What is important is to note that my grandfather had a choice, and that was to spend the rest of his life hooked to a machine, or to pass on.  I found this out at 7:30 pm today from my sister who was already in tears.

Today I have come to dread phone calls.

At this moment, my grandfather is sleeping, and soon, will never wake again. (Before I finished, I got that call.  He died on January 28th, 2014 at around 1 am.  It was peaceful and in his sleep.)

At the end of this week, or the start of next week, I will be heading to a funeral.  At this moment, I’m not sure what to feel.  So I thought today while I wait for the final phone call of the day, I’d write about a man that taught me to love games.

When I think of my grandfather I think of three thing:  Games, The Detroit Tigers, and Gardens.  I’m not as close to him as others in my family, but when I was a kid I could think of nothing more fun than playing rummy with my grandfather.  He always had a weakness for aces.  Aces to him were like collectors items.  I am convinced to this very moment that he could lose EVERY game of rummy but as long as he had those aces he was fine.

He cheated at cards too.  You see, the way we played rummy is that you had to have a discard.  He would constantly draw extra cards to find what he needed and would get that victory quicker as a result.  As he got older, his quick draws were a tad slower, to the point anyone could see them.  When it happened, Opa would say in his thick accent.  “Oh, I drew already?  I’m sorry.”

I got to tell this story, it’s so funny.  I still do a magic trick with cards.  It was myself, my uncle, oma, opa and rachel and I was doing this card trick to my uncle.  Now my uncle was smart enough to realize that this card I magically would reveal that he pulled earlier to start the trick was a card I saw.  He never could figure out though when I saw the card.  Opa on the other hand did.  In fact, he went and tried to do the same card trick himself.  He had my uncle pick a card and sure enough, he knew the secret.  He took that card my uncle had, turned it right around and put in the deck.  It was awesome.

Almost as much he loved games, he loved those Detroit Tigers.  Not a day that went by in that house he lived in when the game was on the radio that he didn’t listen or watch the game.  He’d be happy when they were winning, and belting out a “Sacredi!” when they lost.

I remember the last time I saw him.  Time had taken its toll, and he was suffering from dementia.  We had a great time.  We played cards, I told jokes, I had him laughing.  And then he called me Tony, my dad.   And then he realized something was wrong.  I knew at that moment, he was starting to wind down.

On Christmas this last month,  I called Oma and got a chance to talk to him.  He was in good spirits.  I made a promise that the next time I saw him, we’d play cards.  He was so happy and I really did look forward to that game.

The saddest thing about today is I’m never going to be able to keep that promise.

But I’m relieved too.  He still had coherent days.  He made the choice today to move on, and as much as I’m going to miss him, I’m happy he was able to find peace, still intact.

Somewhere in the next life, there is a garden and in that garden a man now is working, and in that scene a little radio is talking about a tiger getting onto the plate.  It’s the bottom of the ninth, and the tying run is on base.  The pitch is thrown…and whatever way it swings, that man is content, and at peace.  For that I am forever grateful.

I’m going to miss you Opa.  I love you and always will.  Thank you for being a part of my life.