Friday, November 25, 2011

Saying Goodbye

It's been five days.

I've been trying to write this for five days. Today I am actually putting words onto a screen.

My grandfather had been sick for a while. Two major heart attacks. Diabetes. Other problems, none fun. He was tired. He was ready. We were not. So he held on, mostly for Nana, I think, but also for us. For his daughters. He worried...he tried to prepare them, they tried to prepare us. It wasn't a shock.

The shock is how much it still hurts.

We were all welcome to speak at the service, encouraged even. My children wrote letters to him - unprompted by me - and asked if they could put them in with Grandad when he was laid to rest. They read short versions of them at the service. My aunts and cousins and uncle and a family friend spoke eloquently, sharing memories and stories.

I did not. I could not.

He had nicknames for most of us. Mine is Fawn-do. Fondue. I cannot remember a time when he called me anything else, unless it was "hun."

I wish I'd followed him around with a tape recorder...journaling his stories, his laugh, his advice. What I wouldn't give to hear any and all of that tonight.

What I remember most was his laugh and his voice. How anything he said when I was a child was law. He didn't demand respect - he didn't have to. His authority was absolute and I knew no fear of him. The only thing I ever feared was disappointing him. He loved us tremendously. His family was everything to him. I loved hearing him talk to hear them playfully (mostly) bicker back and forth.

I remember spending the night with them, and he always had dinner in his chair when I was young - and he always had salt. I remember the salt. We both ate lots of it. He watched "wrasslin" on TV - I always wondered if he knew it was all fake but I know now that he did. Of course he did. Nothing got past that man. Absolutely nothing.

I went to see him just about a year ago. He was in the hospital for something routine, and he was in Little Rock, so the rest of the family had gone back home. I wanted to see him before going home from work. I got something that night that I hadn't had in many years - his undivided attention. We sat there and talked for a good hour, and after asking after the kids and me, we talked about Nana...the things he was worried about. He laughed and told me she was eating too many cookies and drinking too much soda. He was worried about her. I hugged and kissed him before I left, as I always did, and we said we loved each other.

At 5:00 a.m. the next morning, I got a call. His heart had stopped. He'd been shocked five times and he was back, but probably not for long. We were brought in to say our goodbyes.

Against all odds, he survived it. Along with an unplanned swim in the lake a few months later when the roads were covered in ice.

He loved my grandmother almost his whole life. 65 years. He took a vow to take care of her until he drew his last breath, and that is just what he did. He worked hard, he raised three amazing daughters, and he weathered the storms of the past decade with grace and honor, always. He is, without any question or competition, the best man I have ever known. I miss him more than I'd have even imagined possible.

I love you, Grandad.

Be careful going home.