Sunday, April 29, 2012

My Grandpa

It’s been a few months which is really no excuse.   On Tuesday, January 31st, my grandfather took his last breath and passed away quickly and peacefully.  He was able to join my grandmother who passed a little less than 20 months prior. 

My grandpa was a man who came from little.  He grew up very poor on a farm in Kentucky and from parents who had very little formal education.  From a young age, he learned the definition of “hard work”, something that stuck with him all his life.  Education was very important to him and I am told he graduated from high school in the top of his class.  He joined the Air Force and even earned a Bronze Start while serving in the Korean conflict (something that no one seemed to know until later).  He received his doctorate from University of Kentucky.  He was the first person to receive a doctorate in his family and I joined him as the 2nd.  (He was very proud of me when I joined the club!)  He was a professor in the Agriculture department at Berea College.  He truly cared for all of his students, being an advisor to them and encouraging them to be the best citizens they can be to their community at large.  I believe this is a quality my mom also inherits as a teacher.  I remember my mom bringing potential students with her for a weekend trip to Grandpa and Grandma’s so that they could see the college.   My Grandpa was an active member of the community, including his church community.  He was a proud man and had no problems telling you what he believed to be true. He was not shy to share a Bible with you.  As I mentioned, my grandpa was a very hard worker.  While I believe that I have a good work ethic, I will never truly work as hard as he did.  Even when it was probably more difficult to admit, he didn’t give up or really think there was anything that he couldn’t do.  He didn’t ask for help.  He loved his yard and was a gardener.  His roses were out of this world beautiful and fragrant. 

He loved his family.  In fact our last conversation was centered around that.  He missed Grandma a lot and felt sort of lost without her by his side.  He was quick to tell anyone about her.  It was very sweet.  I don’t know that I necessarily saw that side of him while she was alive. 

My grandpa was one of the most hard headed, stubborn people I have ever known.  He was truly a one of a kind.  If he felt that something needed to be said, he said it.  He was quick thinking, which in the later years, due to Parkinsons wasn’t as easy to recognize.  He battled lung cancer and suffered from palsy and Parkinson’s, which affected his speech and maybe some of his recall at the end.  Although, many times you could tell it was at the tip of his tongue and he would get so frustrated not being able to communicate effectively.

I have some very fond memories and many stories from the time I spent with him and my grandmother growing up.  I used to visit them regularly.  Apparently at a very young age, I climbed the ladder behind him once to try to join him on the roof.  I loved to play outside and he loved being outside.  He was working though.  I remember riding in the John Deer tractor with him.  (I think I drove it once and, to no surprise of anyone who knew him, was not doing it right according to his standards so never got to do it again.)  I went with him to the Ag Dept farm to feed the animals.  I loved to go see the pigs.  I remember going on walks with he and Grandma.  I would ride my bike all the time when I was at their house.  I took trips with them and remember them going to the beach with us.  I remember them coming for most all of my birthdays and coming for the weekend in Grundy.  I remember going to church with them.  I remember every Christmas with my entire family and what fun it was to be with so many people and I loved to see all of them, along with my cousin, aunt and uncles.  I remember playing games and cards with him.  He would rush rush rush you until it was his turn and then he took his sweet time.  J  I remember our trip to Paris together.  He loved to pick at me (and anyone else for that matter).  I will never forget how much he picked at me for going to Paris and eating Italian (it was truly some of the best Italian food I had ever had).  He couldn’t believe that I didn’t enjoy the cheese and wines but I was only 17 and hadn’t quite developed that taste.  I remember going and spending a week with them when I was in college to help out when he had the cancerous tumor removed from his lung.  I also remember washing my car and him telling me how I did it wrong.  J  He was a man who knew there was only one right way to do everything and it was his way.  I remember all the graduations (high school, college, and pharmacy school).  He was so proud.  I remember him being at my wedding and standing up at the reception dinner to tell a story about me.  I will never forget watching him, trying to preserve every moment that weekend, and remembering how much I loved him and he loved me.  I remember bringing Charlie to meet him for the very first time.

I’m thankful for all of these memories and more that I just can’t articulate at the moment.  I know that he is a better place with my Grandmother and I’m thankful he didn’t suffer and feel that even though his time was up on earth, he still has lots more to do.  I’m sure he is busy in Heaven, probably even setting a few people straight! 

The weekend of the funeral was somewhat surreal to me.  It was my first time leaving Charlie.  I couldn’t bring him because he was recovering from a week of sickness that had really taken a toll on him.  While he was in full recovery mode, Matt and I just couldn’t reason sticking him in the car for 12 hours or putting him on a plane with so many people to share more crud with him or for them to share crud with him.  It was a wise decision but I so badly selfishly wanted to show Charlie off and let my family love on him.  I knew Grandpa would have liked him being there too.  While I didn’t know when Grandpa would pass, I really think I had processed the fact that it wouldn’t be long.  He was just so weak when I saw him about 6.5 months prior.  It doesn’t make it easier but I know in my heart he is so much better off and he was lonely and ready to be with the Lord.  The trip was also difficult because I came to this small town, their house, etc. and saying goodbye was hard to do in some ways all over again, but this time for good to the house and all that it meant to me.  I don’t know when I’ll be back in Berea, Kentucky and doubt that I’ll ever visit that house again, a place with SO MANY memories!  I don’t know that I’ll see some of the people that I’ve known for years, friends and neighbors of my Grandpa and Grandma’s.  Wow, talk about some great friends.  I hope when I’m their age, I have friends like what they had.  Friends who truly loved them!  I don’t even know when I would see my family again.  We are all so spread out and getting us together isn’t was easy as it once was.  We have other responsibilities, jobs, etc. that get in our way.  I came with a heavy heart and left with a little bit of emptiness and trying to process all that I was feeling.  I left around 5am on Friday and was back around midnight on Saturday night/Sunday  morning so it was a fast trip with not much sleep.  As it’s getting ready to approach the 2 year anniversary of my grandmother, I don’t think I’ve stopped missing either one of them but I realize I’m extremely fortunate to have known these 2 people and to have been so close to them.

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