(this is an epic, honest post...just sayin)
You never know when that phone call will come. For me it came last night at 7pm when I was trying to wrestle my kids into the bath tub. Thankfully my husband was home & I literally kissed everyone & ran out the door. My dad told me that "we might have lost Grandpa for good tonight." As I drove to meet the ambulance not knowing what I would find there, I prayed and cried and tried to drive like a sane person. So many emotions rush in... sadness, grief, confusion, anger, love, worry..and the list goes on. You see, I am 28 years old and have been spoiled to have all four of my grandparents my entire life. "So this is what this feels like" I remember thinking.
If you know me at all, Grandpa has had a long road of health issues. In fact, he's a bit of a bionic man with so many replacements. Just earlier this year he had his knee replaced and had been doing so well these last months. His passing was entirely unexpected and in fact, he was supposed to leave today for his 65th high school reunion in Kansas. He was so excited and it was all he could talk about. Even moments before he passed Grandma was talking to him and something to the effect of "if you aren't feeling well, we might need to cancel this trip" and his reply was "no way, we are going." Then he pretty much just laid down, drew breath and that was it. His 83 long and wonderful years drew to a close. He didn't suffer, his tired heart just literally stopped.
I could go on and on about how I have seen God's grace to us in the last 24 hours but I won't (at least in this post). I really just want to celebrate what an amazing man I had to say goodbye to last night. He was born in a small town in Kansas...managed to live through things like the Great Depression, World War II and even had such accomplishments as a college degree. I tell you just last week the man was on email and using his digital camera :) His passion for learning never ceased to amaze me. He has not worked for over 20 years so he has filled his retirement days with lots of genealogy research and many other pursuits. He never stopped having a passion for life, even when his health had him sitting in a chair most of the day, he continued to read and learn how to use new technology. I love the idea of the man telling me about wearing cardboard in his shoes as a kid sitting in his big recliner watching his flat screen. He was definitely a story teller & sometimes we would roll our eyes when he would start...now we'd give anything to hear one of those stories again. One of my favs was about he and his brother lighting horse "toots" with a match...sounds dangerous if you ask me :)
My last memory of seeing him alive is very sweet. It was just over a week ago, the twins and I invited ourselves over for lunch to see Grandma and Grandpa. Dean was running all over with Grandpa's cane and generally tearing the house apart but Dean would stop on his way by Granpda's chair to hug Grandpa's leg. We all got to eat lunch together at their dining room table just enjoying each other's company. I cannot even express how thankful I am for that now so sweet and special memory.
As with many that grieve, a slideshow of memories has been playing through my head over the last 24 hours. All the sweet times together or things that made me laugh or things that made Grandpa well...Grandpa. Due to his retirement, he ALWAYS had time for his grandkids. In no certain order here are some favorites -
- grandpa teaching me to use a knife - he gave me a butter knife and stale pancakes and told me to go at it
- standing under grandpa as he sung in church- I always loved the sound of his church singing voice
- riding in his white pickup truck over to the park with our bikes in the back so we could take a spin
- grandpa patiently teaching me times tables, sitting at the desk in the upstairs office of our family hardware store
- grandpa letting me wash my play tea set in the sink like a real grown up doing dishes
- feeding and watching his birds in his back yard
- grandpa teaching me to fish on the lake at his beach house (& traumatizing me when he told me that the ducks weren't fighting, "dear it's mating season," I was like 8 & that's was too much info)
- visiting grandpa's garden to see what happened to be growing
- sleepovers at grandma and grandpas
- grandpa "hiring" me to use my good handwriting on his genealogy projects - he knows a lot about who we are related to & kept great records...he knew way back to some relations with Ben Franklin & Betsy Ross
- my first trip to niagra falls
- dancing with grandpa at my wedding
- seeing grandpa hold his great grandchildren, my Macy & Dean, & still being here to celebrate their first birthday this summer
There are so many more memories thankfully...those were just some of the top few that stuck in my head. A lot of them small moments that turned into big memories for me. I know that bits of grandpa will live in all of us. I fear the days ahead when his chair is empty at the head of the dining table and he is not the one to say grace at Thanksgiving and Christmas. I am hoping that these memories and his stories always stay with me and bring a smile to my face instead of a tear to my eyes. Right now though, there are still tears.