My grandfather

I was notified about 20 minutes ago that the man that has always seemed larger than life has passed away.  My grandfather was moved into hospice last night after suffering a fall over Labor Day weekend. My heart is breaking, but I jotted down some thoughts on this man last night while still hoping for the miracle that never came. I think he is incredible.  He has always been the rock for our family – supportive, kind, stable and loving. This is very hard for me, because I am extremely close to my grandpa.  I always have been.  We lost my grandmother last year in September, and I am still hurting from that loss. I want more than anything to be there with him now, but we were just with him 6 weeks ago and I got to spend a good amount of time with him, as did my kids.  I have been blessed with 39 years with him and the last 20 have been my favorite.  We have developed a very cool relationship as I became an adult.  I have been honored to get to know the man, not just the Grandpa that he is.

I was still hoping and praying for that miracle that gives me more time and more time for my kids to get to have those memories of the great-grandfather – the only great grandparent that remains. They adore their Great-grandpa and his death is going to hit them hard, but especially Mickey.  He doesn’t take these things well.  Where Minnie seems to accept that there is a natural end to life, and she cries, but she accepts.  Mickey doesn’t – he stresses, he frets and all death reminds him that all people will die, and his anxiety over losing his grandparents or me or his teacher or his friend, ramps up. He attended 3 funerals last year, and while he will have no part of an open casket, he did ok.  The aftermath was manageable, but this will be harder.  I was close to my grandmother, but by the time I got the kids, she was already very ill.  They knew her, they sat with her, they hugged her, but there weren’t a lot of conversations after the first visit, and they didn’t really get to know her or interact with her very much.  That is not true for my Grandfather.

He and Mickey singing Johnny Cash songs together will likely be my absolute favorite memory of my Grandpa.  Him asking Minnie to perform her ballet routine (over and over and over again) for him comes in a close second.  My favorite part of my relationships as an adult is that for some reason (possibly my brutal honesty combined with extreme tact) had earned his trust and respect.  When one of his children annoyed him, I would get a call to talk him off the figurative ledge. He would talk for 45 minutes and in the end decide his children all loved him and wanted what was best.  I love that he still worried about my long distance bill when I called, but I haven’t paid long distance in over a decade.  Most of all, his unyielding support for his 5 children, 10 grandchildren, 22 great granchildren, and 3 great-great granchildren, and his 67 year marriage to my grandmother.  He met her at a time when divorce was still not socially acceptable, he was a 20 year old soldier who fell in love with a woman seven years his senior and her two young children.  My dad was one of those kids, and for the next 67 years he would love those two as he did the three that were his.  He is the only father my dad has ever known and we love and respect him greatly.

When I told him of my plans to adopt Minnie and Mickey, he wasn’t just supportive, he was thrilled.  From the day of placement, I would get calls to learn about his newest grandchildren.  He spent time learning about Autism and how to deal with Mickey and anxiously awaiting the opportunity to meet them.  As soon as we finalized we made the plan and it was love at first sight for both kids and great-grandpa.  He was well over 6 foot tall, a loud booming man with a biting sense of humor and no filter, and I loved him very much. He was from Buffalo NY, and in many ways was the stereotypical brash New Yorker.

My prayers are with his children tonight – they have been with him for the last 36 hours, since we knew that the end was here.  He was surrounded by his kids and grandkids, he was loved until the very end.  And tonight, he is with his beautiful bride again.   It is almost exactly a year from when we lost my grandmother and I think he was ready to go be with her. I am crying as I type this – mourning the loss of the man that taught my dad how to be the man he is, who showed me every day what it means to love when you don’t have to and what hard work and dedication to your family can yield.  I am grateful that I had 39 years.  I wish my children had more than 4, but I am grateful they had that, so that they could know and love the man as I did.  Rest in peace, Grandpa.  I love you more than you will know.  Hug Grandma for me – until we meet again.

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