Thursday, July 20, 2017

Be Funny, It's Your Money

This was, according to my aunt Heidi, how my grandfather used to answer the phone.  :)  Today it has been two weeks since his funeral, and anecdotes like that one are now able to make me laugh without then crying too.  Progress!  It's been a rough month.  I still haven't completely unpacked the luggage I'd taken home for the services.  I still haven't tackled the mountain of laundry in the bedroom either.  I have gotten real mail out to family, though, and emails and texts, as well, and even found my somehow-now-thirteen-year-old nephew Dylan a birthday card with a drawing of a pickle on the front and a message inside of, "You're a big Dill!"    (Remember his first day of kindergarten!?  Sweet Baby Dyl!)  Life, then, goes on, and so do I, finding love and smiles--even in my salads--as always.  And my grandfather would approve--all the better. 

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Gone from My Sight

My maternal grandfather died this weekend, and the fourth of July holiday-weekend is an appropriate send-off for this Navy veteran, I find myself thinking.  When I once described her dad as "a character," my mom agreed and noted, "Both your grandfathers are characters."  And now both are gone, and I can't come up with the words quite yet to express how jarring that feels.  . . My time as someone's grandkid also passing away.  My grandfather would have turned ninety next month.  This is my ever-present-Yankees-cap grandfather.  The grandfather with the most beautiful, looped, delicate script-handwriting.  The grandfather who's always somehow reminded me of Elton John.  :)  The grandfather who would embarrass my grandmother by loudly and realistically neighing like a horse in the middle of Target to get her attention while she shopped.  :)  The grandfather who would add big-nosed "Kilroy was here"-style drawings to the backs of his letters' envelopes for me.  ♥  
A strict Baptist who had been raised on a large dairy farm, he never cursed; A man he encountered at work one day so angered him, he felt enraged enough to let some baaaaad words fly finally, the story goes, but all my grandfather managed to spit out was, "You--you--you applehead!"   He was always the first to laugh at himself, and no one has ever described him without using some variant of silly, goofball, or ham to do so.  During an Easter 2001 visit, he stood at my mom's side at the kitchen table late at night as she blearily tried to think of a final few rhyming clues for the next morning's egg-hunt before going to bed, and we were soon dissolving in giggles as his suggestions got sillier and sillier.  "How 'bout this, Chris?" he would begin--and she would cry out, "Stop!" and be laughing already before he even continued--"Your next prize might be under the tree.  If it is chocolate, leave it there for me!"  And as we all grew more tired and punchy, his helpful rhymes included gems along the lines of, "You think there's treasure in this yard?  Well, there's not, Kid.  Life is HARD!"  :) 
He served eight years in the Navy and was one of the helmsmen of the USS Wasp.  I'm hoping one of my aunts or uncles remembers to bring his official Navy portrait to the services this week so I can finally see it and take a picture of it.  He looks "just gorgeous" in it, in Aunt Laurie's words, so young and blue-eyed.  (Update:  They remembered.    )
My grandmother remains, after having had him in her life more than sixty years.  She herself turned ninety this year.  The week ahead for all of us--Mom and Aunt Laurie have three brothers and two other sisters, there are more than twenty grandchildren, and now so many great-grandchildren too--will be heartbreaking.  Aunt Laurie, Mom, and I fondly remember Grammy's shock when my no-dancing-permitted grandfather led her out onto the dance floor at my older brother's wedding.  Life has its sweet surprises too, after all. 
Everyone's stories of  my grandfather are funny and endearing ones, told and retold.  One of Mom's favorites is of how during a family camping trip as a kid, she woke in the middle of the night to the whoops and hollers of my grandfather running around outside the tent chasing raccoons away from the family's food-stash in his underwear.  :) 
Decades later, upon first meeting my dad's Italian-born grandmother, who lived next door to us when I was little, he kindly accepted the glass of homemade wine she offered him since he did not know how to refuse her politely, especially since Great-Grandma spoke no English.  With the intention of getting it over with quickly, he downed the glass and smiled his "thanks" at Great-Grandma, but she misinterpreted his quick drinking and pleasant smile as a sign that he was a big drinker and would like more, so she refilled his glass--and refilled it--and refilled it yet again--and my sweet grandfather ended up near-drunk for the first time in his life (and smiling all the more the longer this went on, of course) before she finally understood that he really had had enough.  :)  That story is still my favorite.  Mom always loved to tease him about it, and he would laugh harder than anybody when she did. 
He loved children and could always be found at reunions and get-togethers wherever they were gathered, much preferring playing like a kid to visiting over coffee with the rest of the adults. "Well, he IS just a big kid," one of my aunts has always added whenever this has been brought up. 
Last year, my uncle Dan arranged for my grandfather to be gifted with an honor flight--Bless!--and accompanied him to Washington, D.C. where he was recognized for his military service.
It is one photo from that trip that keeps making me cry this weekend--one of my always-sweet but almost-always-smiling grandfather standing tall to offer a crisp and quite solemn salute.  
For whatever reason, the salute--just like the homemade pies after my other grandfather died--is what keeps breaking me this weekend.  It comes to mind and I dissolve again.  We're talking about my grandfather, though--he of the applehead-curse and Kilroy drawings--so not to worry:  There is always a reason to smile again soon enough.