Friday, January 30, 2009

Grandpa

Forgive me internets, it has been two months since I have posted.

I meant to be posting regularly. I was settling in at my new job, doing postings at work, and things were going well (still are, actually).

And then ... and then my Grandpa passed away.

GrandpaIt's not exactly like it was a surprise. Grandpa was 83, and for the last several years has been becoming more and more frail.

It's just that he was the last of my grandparents, and he was my favorite.

Don't give me the "not supposed to have favorites, love them all the same" line. It just doesn't work that way.

Grandpa was my favorite because he didn't require me to talk to him all the time. We were perfectly content being in the same general area without speaking. I could play around in his work room as he built his radio-controlled airplaine, and it wouldn't bother him. He actually let me help him assemble some parts, and not in the keep-watching-her-like-a-hawk-so-she-doesn't-screw-up kind of way.

He had a giant vegetable garden, but he always made sure to plant borders of flowers too. My Grandma wanted to feed the birds, and he bought the seed and didn't make a fuss when the birds scratched a muddy hole in his lush green lawn. He tried to teach me to do the breaststroke, but I only wanted to float on my back so we did the backstroke.

When I was going to be starting my first job after college, Grandpa was the one who gave me advice that I did not appreciate at the time, but which I know now to be excellent: "I know you tend to be emotional, but don't let them see that. If you're frustrated or upset you need to excuse yourself to go to the restroom."

For many, many years we all thought Grandpa was going to be the first to pass away. He was in a horrible car accident before my memory begins, and was retired from that day forward. He had pneumonia or bronchitis, and was hacking up a lung. He had double bypass heart surgery. Twice.

Meanwhile my other grandparents had only minor brushes with illnesses or hospitals. And yet, Grandpa outlived them all.

In the last few years this very independent man had to sell the only house he ever owned. The house he and my Grandma bought in the mid 1950s. The same house he spent many hours drawing plans for, designing, and building a giant back room and bedroom to make the house fit their growing family. The house my dad talks about having to run home from school in the middle of the day because it began raining and he needed to cover the construction area. The same house that saw one Aunt's wedding in the backyard. The same house where my Grandma passed away under hospice care just 4 years ago in their bedroom.

He moved in with my parents, which was not an easy or peaceful thing to do. We're very opinionated, my family.

He was in pain for much of his last years from arthritis and old age. He was becoming more frail overall, had trouble remembering minor things, and had difficulty standing. He repeatedly fell, and each fall meant he didn't recover quite as well.

Dad was his primary care giver, but eventually we convinced Dad that he could call us for help, so I spent several weekends taking care of Grandpa. He was always embarrassed to need my help getting up, going to the bathroom, getting cleaned up, and getting in bed. He tired quickly, but I knew it did him good to see a different face because he had less trouble remembering things when he was seeing a new face.

Eventually Grandpa needed full time help, and he began living in a nursing home in their skilled nursing wing. He rallied for several weeks. Doing physical therapy helped as he became more alert and stronger - even able to move his wheelchair with his legs, something he couldn't do prior to his stay.

Unfortunately it was a short respite, and he became ill and passed away quite peacefully with my parents at his side.

And so the holidays this year were a bit different for my family. Both Thanksgiving and Christmas were the first years without any of the Grandparents. It is a strange sensation, to know none of them are there anymore.

I know that Grandpa would not want me to dwell on unhappy thoughts too long. And he is in a literal sense not suffering any more. And he enjoyed a good book as much as I do. He would want me to continue to write about things that give me joy.

So my brief note about my absence has become a long tribute to a wonderful man. Sorry about that. Sorry, too, that you didn't get to meet my Grandpa.