Oh how the years go by. 17 years ago in August, my grandfather passed away. He was 75 years young. I remember the events that led up to his passing like it was yesterday.
But first let me tell you about my Grandy. He was a teddy bear. He was loving, kind, caring, would sing to us, had a servants heart and loved his family dearly. I remember spending holidays, birthdays, summer breaks and who knows how many more occasions over the years at his and my grandmother’s house. We were always spending time with them. Of course the fact that they were only 2 hours away helped things. Though it seemed like 2 hours was FOREVER to get there as a kid.
Grandy was an avid photographer. He photographed EVERY single occasion. Easter, birthdays, Christmas, births, and just enjoyed taking photo’s of our family. I remember him setting the timer and it not always going off causing us to laugh and then he would go try to figure out what was going on and then the flash and camera would go off. This resulted in more laughter from the family group. But we wouldn’t have it any other way. Those were our memories. He loved his family and wanted to capture that for himself.
He also loved birthday celebrations. He and Grammy would show up and we would run to greet them. We would have a family meal together and then enjoy cake, ice cream and presents. And we would also get the “birthday spanking”. This was a tradition where you got a tap on the bottom for each year you were alive. All family members participated in this. They would often skip numbers and do things like saying “One to grow on” or “One to get married on” to make the event last longer. Of course this was only done by our family as they knew to only tap our bums. Though occasionally my sister and I would get each other really good. Sibling love!
Grandy and Grammy had a small garden in their back yard. They grew green beans, blackberry vines, tomatoes, and several other vegetables. My grandmother would can the green beans. She would also make sweet pickles which I lovingly called “pillsies”. She also made relish and strawberry jam. My sister and I would go help them in the garden and also in the prep for canning. We had so much fun with them.
Then in 1994, Grandy had a stroke. It was so hard to see the man I had loved all my life be so frail, weak and vulnerable. He went from the teddy bear to a shell of who he used to be. Granted some of those changes were necessary due to dietary reasons and he lost a good deal of weight due to that, but it was hard for me to not see him as the big teddy bear I grew up with. But at least we had him with us.
Fast-forward 3 years to 1997. Grandy had another stroke, though I don’t remember this one being quite as severe. But still not good. While he was in the hospital the doctors found some swelling of his lymph nodes. They did tests to determine what was going on and found that he had cancer. So the doctors said he needed to have his lymph nodes removed and also a lung as it had spread to his right lung. Off to surgery he went. When he came out they told us he had to have his right lung and half of his left lung removed. I had no clue you could survive on one lung.
Things seemed to be going well for his recovery. I remember he had to do this breathing machine to see what his lung capacity and strength were. I thought that was SO cool at the time. So I went back with my family to our home. Then we got the call that no one wants to hear. He had caught pneumonia. Pneumonia with only 1/2 a lung and recovery from surgery. Things weren’t looking good.
I remember trying to go back to work at my job while knowing the fact that things were not good, but I wanted a distraction. I had been at work maybe 30 minutes when my dad called and said that they were taking Grandy off of life-support. I couldn’t work then. It was too much. So my dad came and picked me up and took me home so I could say goodbye to my grandfather.
When I got home, we received a phone call from the hospital. It was my mom (who had stayed with my grandmother) letting my sister and I know that it was time for us to say goodbye. But what do you say to someone you love who will no longer be part of your life? To a someone who has been there for you, loved you, cared for you, sang songs to you, laughed at the cartoons on TV with you? What do you say? I don’t remember who suggested it or if I thought of it on my own, but my sister and I wound up singing to Grandy. We sang the song he would sing to us, “You are my Sunshine”.
It was the hardest thing I have ever had to do. Singing that song brought back every time he had ever held us and sang to us. He loved his family and we loved him. This was the best way we could show it to him right now. As we finished, we each said goodbye to him, knowing it was the last time he would ever hear our voice.
Shortly after midnight that night, my mom called my dad to let him know Grandy had gone on to be with the Lord. I remember standing outside the door of their bedroom as he talked to my mom to calm her. When he was done, I asked him if Grandy was gone and he said yes. I told my dad good night and went to my room and cried myself to sleep. It was a hard night for all of us. I can’t even imagine how hard it was for her.
We laid him to rest next to my sister, Anna, in the cemetery near my grandparents house. It was a very sad time for our family.
But I remember all the good times we had. The fair, all holidays, birthdays, just because times, Grandy and myself hiding under the desk from the horses, him singing to me and my sister, the hugs, love, compassion that came from him. He was a great man and is truly missed.
Today he would have been 92 years old. I still miss him 17 years later. He had such an impact in my life and on my family. He will always be remembered.