The Odd Wife

Friday, April 22, 2005


It was a crummy day all around. I didn't sleep well and everything that could go wrong with my files at work did go wrong.

I wasn't much looking forward to the weekend either. I have a rather full plate and I am not expecting any rest this weekend.

And then, it all went really wrong.

I didn't get home until after 8 pm. There was a business card stuck in my front door from my aunt. No note. No message. I had that "Oh no..." moment. I rushed inside to grab the cell phone I had left home by mistake and there was a message from my aunt. "Call me, it's important".

And I knew...

My grandfather passed away today. Next Sunday, he would have been 94 years old. He was the most important person in my life for many reasons.

My grandfather has suffered from Alzheimers for the past 10 years. He was moved to a nursing home far away in 1997 and after a few very disturbing attempts, I stopped communicating with him. He didn't know me. When we did try to talk, the dementia was painful. Once, he talked dirty to me. You just don't forget that. I wanted to remember my "Pop pop" and gradually I stopped trying to speak with him.

As a child, he was a 2nd father to me. Him and my grandmother cared for me every day after school and all summer long. I traveled with them. Most of my young years was spent in their care.

My grandfather gave me the two greatest gifts of my life.

First, he taught me to read. More than that, he taught me to love reading. Every day he sat with me on a porch swing and read the comics with me. In kindergarten, I was discovered to have a 5th grade reading level. To this day I devour books with an nearly obsessive hunger. To me, this is a miraculous gift to pass on.

Second, he paid for my daughter's college education. Our state has a prepaid college fund that allows you to make monthly payments to pay for a full 4 year college education at any state university. He bought and paid for this (in full) just after my grandmother's death. It has always been a comfort to EH and I to know that her college education is secure and I know how valuable this will be in her life. She was tested and found to have an IQ of 155 (genius level) and this education will most likely be critical to her future success. What greater gift coulld he give to me?

The funeral will be next Saturday, locally. A small graveside service as he is laid to rest beside my grandmother.

My aunt told me to think of something to say and I wanted to write it tonight, while it's still fresh. Forgive the sappiness, but I'm going to post it here just the same.

I still don’t know quite how to react to death. In my life, I have only lost three people that I was very close to…in 1996, my grandmother was the first, this past August, my son and now my grandfather. It’s hard to really know what to say today. In some ways, I have slowly lost my grandfather over the last 8 years as his mind deteriorated before his body.

I’m ashamed that I didn’t keep in better contact with my grandfather. There were times that I tried and afterwards found it very painful or upsetting. He either didn’t know me or said wildly inappropriate things that I couldn’t understand. I have tremendous appreciation for my aunt, Bonnie, for her strength and love in watching over him. I can not even imagine how difficult it was. I think that on some level, my lack of communication with my grandfather was a selfish attempt for me to remember him as he always was to me. Pop-pop.

My grandparents played the role of 2nd Mom and Dad to me during my childhood. Gramma picked me up every day from pre-school and brought me home where I entertained myself playing with boxes, Pop-Pop’s typewriter or the funny shaped pool table until Pop-pop came home. He would sit on the porch swing with me and read the comics with me. By kindergarten, I was reading at a 5th grade level because of my Pop-Pop.

I went on vacations with them…Pittsburgh, Virginia, Kansas, Disney World… I remember pieces of every one of them. I remember the stories they would tell. I have scores of memories ranging from trivial to meaningful. The Christmas’s with Pop-pop’s trains. The way he would let me build entire cities in the garage from empty boxes. The novels I would bang out on his typewriter. Pop-pop never yelled at me (that was Gramma’s job). He was the grampa who took the time to encourage me in whatever I dreamed up. He taught me about orange trees, grapefruit trees and tangerines. He showed me how to make apple sauce from scratch. He bought me this stuffed animal, I don’t remember where, but I remember seeing it, asking for it and him giving it to me. I remember this vividly because I named the dog “Harold” in his honor. He was my extra Dad, my favorite grandfather, my Easter bunny, my Santa Claus and my teacher.

Long before Alzheimer’s was a part of his life, my grandfather would get confused with me. He would frequently refer to my mother or one of my aunts as my “sister” or to Gramma as my “Mom”. It never bothered me. He simply thought of me as a daughter.

My grandfather loved my grandmother deeply and there is a part of me that feels a sort of peace that he is finally with her again. He was never really the same after she passed away 9 years ago. As much as I will and have missed him, I think he missed her even more.

My grandfather gave me the two greatest gifts you can give to a person. First, as I said, he taught me to read – but more than that, he taught me to love it. Even as a child, I would pour through books in an almost obsessive way. I still do. To this day, there is never a day that I am not reading a book. The second gift he gave me was from him and Gramma – my daughter’s college education, pre paid for through the Florida prepaid college fund. Those two gifts have and will always be eternal land constant reminders of how incredibly important he was in my life. “Harold” had been passed down to my daughter, (SG), when she spied him and fell in love. When I heard my grandfather had passed away, SG gave him back to me voluntarily as another memory of my grandfather to keep and treasure. I have “Harold” back now and I am grateful, but the other gifts from my grandfather will live on forever…

Posted by Red :: 11:12 PM :: |
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