Thursday, November 27, 2008

I was born in Minnesota. My mom was noticeably pregnant with me when my family moved to Minnesota from California. We moved back to California when I was only 6 months old. My parents were having a hard time being away from family. We moved close to my grandparents. Thus, my association with my grandpa began.

My first memory of him is...well, I'm not totally sure. An early one that stands out, though, was when I was about 4 probably. He spanked me. Not too hard. Not over the knee, but a spanking. We were in a parking lot and I have no idea what I wanted or was trying to do, but he had my hand in one of his and I was struggling. He reached over and swatted me a couple of times on the rear, then he, Grandma and I walked into wherever it was we were walking into. When I told my mom about this when we were reunited, she told me that I must have been being pretty bad if Grandpa spanked me. He was the more patient one between my grandparents.

I saw that again, when Davan was young. The patience, not the spanking. Grandma would get frustrated with the "special" care that Davan needed, but Grandpa put up for her, saying that she was a neat kid and even helped to provide special care for her.

As Grandpa got older, though, he didn't interact as well with Davan. The last few visits with him proved to be tension causing for Davan, at least. When Max was with us, he showed a marked preference for him. He has always liked the boys real well. The one grandson is something pretty special to him. Max, then, while he was with us, was the only boy in his generation. We all have our quirks. I was worried about how Grandpa would feel about the disruption, but, when he learned that we were worried for our continued safety, he just wanted to know, "How soon can he be moved out?" It turns out we were his first priority after all.

Grandpa liked to fish. I remember going fishing with him and Grandma on a summer visit, after I'd moved to Colorado with my mom, which happened when I was 7. We went to the beach and fished off a pier. I was the only one to catch a keeper that day, which was pretty exciting. I really disliked fish, though. Grandpa prepared it and proudly served it to a friend who came to dinner that night. There was really only enough for one. I felt pretty special.

My mom felt like she wanted to do a better job of parenting than her mom. She set out to do so. It was hard, though, to do something different. You really have to think about it and try so as to not just fall into the parenting practices that you grew up with. Mom, though, at some point, realized that she did have a good example. Her dad.

My step dad spoke about Grandpa as an example yesterday to me. He said that it was hard for the boys because they had this man to live up to. "The boys" being those young men who dated my mom and her sisters. He said Grandpa never did take them aside and say to them, "This is what you need to do," but he was always leading by example. Honestly, seeing how most of my mom's and her sister's marriages turned out, I'm not sure that whole deal worked out real well, but Dennis still felt like Grandpa was a good example. He says that over the last few years, the catch phrase at their house was, "What would Daddy do?"

Grandpa always took spectacular, uncomplaining care of Grandma, who is a very high needs woman. For the last 20 years or so, she's been practically bedridden and Grandpa waited on her hand and foot. It turns out, though, that things weren't so serious for Grandma, who started on quite the recovery when Grandpa started going downhill. Still, though, Grandpa only praised her for what she was able to do.

Both of my grandparents have always valued family highly, especially Grandpa. They always wanted to do what they could to take care of all of us. Until recently, but for the last decade or more, they've been in a financial position to help the grandchildren out. My cousins and I are all adults now, but we've all benefited from the grandparents.

In addition to generous monetary birthday and Christmas gifts, we can thank my grandparents for a year of diaper service for Davan, a year of cell phone service for me when Davan was older and they didn't like the idea of us driving around by ourselves without the ability to call for help, plane tickets to come visit them and many, many meals out with them.

In addition to the monetary help, though, it's been a priority for them to spend time with family. They always, but always welcome a visit from family and it's totally fine if we bring some friends along, too. They have had a reputation for being great hosts for many years, cooking up a meal or preparing a bed cheerfully for all comers. When I was stationed nearby while in the Army, they welcomed my friends and I for any weekends we could get away.

To be honest, the overwhelming personality in the house as I was growing up was Grandma's. She smothered us grandchildren when she could and was also so obnoxious that one of the family much repeated stories is of me kicking her in the shin and a small child. Grandpa was off at work or just sort of around, from my perspective, as a child. As I grew into an adult, though, I knew that Grandpa was the calming influence, the person that kept everything together and in perspective.

Grandpa made Anthony feel very welcome. He always had something to talk to Anthony about. Anthony enjoyed his company. Anthony thinks that visits to Grandma will be much harder without Grandpa around to balance her out.

Grandpa was a wood pile sort of man for a very long time. He worked hard at creating his woodpile and keeping the house warm with it. I respect how much Grandpa just kept going for so very long. Not only with the woodpile, but with yard work, house work, walking from the car into a restaurant (which Grandma has refused to do for a long time), going to the grocery store - everything. He told us about a year ago when we visited and he was starting to really seem frail, that it might take him a while, but he could get there. We were sure rooting for him.

Grandpa died yesterday at 11:15. It was my birthday, too. That's okay. It won't ruin my birthday forever or anything. I was glad that he passed. It would have been better if he hadn't had to face a decline into frailty and, eventually, bedrest and only rare rational moments, but, as that did happen, it was best that he didn't have to linger too long like that. He wouldn't have wanted to. He always wanted the end to be fast. It wasn't as fast as I think he'd have liked, but he was done with living and he just shut down. It is good it happened while we were all here to take care of him. Grandma just wasn't up to the job, nor was really facing what it would be like after we all went back to our homes for her to try to take care of him. I'm thankful no one had to face that situation.

Today is Thanksgiving. We'll be having our Thanksgiving dinner as planned with a pre made meal from Wild Oats. While people are sad, we're also relieved. We're still carrying on. We've had time to prepare and Grandpa had lived a long, happy life. It is what it is.

Anthony and I are planning to die together in a car crash when we're 105 and just starting our decline (okay, we'll stretch to older if we haven't declined yet by then). That would be a lot easier than one of us going first or having a lingering decline. Davan will be sad, but at 80, I think she'll survive without us.

Goodbye Grandpa. Thanks for creating my family.


  1. I'm sorry for your loss, but glad he mostly died the way he wanted to.

    I lost my grandfather on my birthday when I was 13. And you're right, it doesn't ruin birthdays for the rest of your life. In a way, I like that he died on that day (if he had to go at all) because I always think of him on December 11th. It's sort of like sharing my day with him.

  2. That was really sweet, Nicholina. :)