Saturday, October 31, 2009

Grampa's Death

My paternal grandfather died about 10 days ago. After a week of being home and sharing stories, I feel pretty at peace with his passing. My eldest cousin and I had to read short poems by his sister at the service, and it was tough but you have to cowboy up at those moments. My uncles read good, honest eulogies, and my cousin with a solid gold voice capped it all off with "Amazing Grace" a capella. The graveside service was short & sweet, Taps was played, the flag was folded and presented to my gramma, and that was that.

I said prayers at his casket, but more or less told him thanks, and that I'd honor his memory & sacrifice. My sister and I together told him thanks for being a tough guy, thanks for letting us get away with murder while in his house, and that we will tell tales of him to our kids. We had an instructional relationship. He would tell me and teach me stuff. To this day, I can't wait to have a wood shop in my basement. I got As in industrial arts in jr high because I knew how to use tablesaws, jig saws, wood files, sandpaper and finishing paper to get things looking good & feeling smooth. He said "make sure everything's level, cause if it ain't level, it's shit". I was 10. He didn't have a kid ears filter. My oldest cousin was about 10 when I was born, and at the calling hours, she told me of how gramps was with me when I was first born. How he told my mom in the run up to Christmas of '79 that all he wanted was a 'bouncing baby boy'. It got me crying because it was behavior I never saw & words I never heard. My grampa never told me he loved me because he was a hard ass who hid his heart well but there's one photo of me and him when I was a baby and I'm on his knee. I'm managing to look up at him and he's looking down at me, and he never had to tell me how he felt because I've seen that photo.

- Once when I was really little my family went up with my grandparents to Sebago Lake. He kept telling my sister he'd run into the lake and dive in before everyone else. So we get settled, the towels in place and he tears off his shirt and runs full force into the lake. He dives in and when he comes up, his shorts are down. We all see his ghost white butt. We laughed our asses off, and my sister forever reminded him of it whenever he went swimming.

- He used to get angry when I'd come to his house after summer b-ball camp and tear off my shirt & socks and dive into the pool, spilling water. One day to teach me a lesson, we're in the pool and suddenly he comes barrelling towards the pool & jumps the 4 foot wall (he was 68 +/-). Water spilled out everywhere and I learned my lesson.

- He was 75 & I was teasing him about getting older. He threw me over his shoulder into the pool. I was about 145 lbs.

- I turned 13 and he gave me a Playboy. His rationale: "so you won't look surprised the 1st time you see a girl nekkid".

- Before I went to college, I stopped by to say goodbye to him & gramma. He shook my hand & said 2 words: "Watch yourself".

- He built a snow igloo for my sis & I two different winters. It was 5 feet high and 10 x 8 in size. We thanked him and gave him hugs and he, of course, mumbled "what are you doing, it was nothing, go outside for chrissake" like it was nothing. My gramma said he worked on it all day before we got home from school.

When I was 21, I had the chance to go to the beaches of Normandy. I got down there and scooped up some sand for him and his brother. I walked up the hill and saw the rows and rows of crosses like Arlington. I thought of how lucky it was he, and the other surviving veterans of that invasion, were to come back. After seeing where our family was from in Scotland, it hit me how many generations worked hard just to get us to this point. How much hard living and sacrifice was there. What am I doing to honor it? Everyone stands on a mountain of bones of those who labored to put you where you are. What are you doing for them? So gramps, I will remember, and honor you.

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