Monday, August 22, 2011

My Grandfather

The call came Saturday afternoon, and I knew when I saw the caller ID what it was about. My grandfather'd been sick for a while. I contemplated for a minute if I should call my brother back, as I stood hiking up the side of the hills on Antelope Island with my kids. But I did, and as I heard him confirming what I'd suspected, I didn't really have a chance to realise my Grandpa was really gone. In that moment, I went into 'mommy mode' and after hiding behind my husband to sob for a moment, I dried my eyes and proceeded with the day full of fun things we'd planned. There was no point in tell my kids until the end of the day, since it was our last weekend in Utah and we didn't want to ruin it for them.

Then that night, we sat the older boys down and explained to them that their Great Grandpa had died that morning. I shed a few tears as I held a sobbing Frog Prince, and listened to his little broken heart try to come to terms that his Grandpa Ron was in heaven. It wasn't my turn to be sad yet; he needed to have his tears. Sheepie was sad, but at his age, dead is still not quite as solid a concept, and he sadness was not quite as pronounced. Frog Prince has turned the corner and quickly understood the reality that he was gone. His little tears ached for grandpas absence from his upcoming baptism; that their last conversation of having a sleep over wouldn't come true. His sadness came often through the night, and Mommy needed to take first place over upset granddaughter.

Sunday, was filled with the haze of goodbyes at church and getting everything packed up quickly, so that we could come home to Corvallis early. It wasn't until I went to bed last night, that it was my turn finally. I woke up around 3 am, like I tend to do thanks to the Bean in utero somersaults, and decided to hop in the shower. As I sad there it really began to sink in that he was gone. I knew that it was going to happen, as I said he'd been very sick. However, even with that in my head, I just assumed he'd be around. He's been around my entire life, it seemed fairly impossible to have it be any other way. So the tears finally fell freely and I was able to really reflect on my Grandpa.

My grandpa was a pretty awesome guy. Like I said, he was such a fixture of my life, that it was the kind of awesomeness that most of the time you don't even notice because it's always there. I have so many good memories of him that the more I sit here thinking about it, it's hard to pick just a few to write about. I can recall that as a kid, it seemed as if he always had something cool in store for us grand kids.

The two stories I remember the most are ones he'd tell us about his own childhood. My Grandpa Ron grew up in Speedway, Indiana, home of the Indy500. He used to tell us about how the whole town lived for those races, and when the engines would start up for the season you could hear it throughout the town. When the engines revved for the first time they'd all rush out school to the race yards (even mid day) just to see the cars. For a kid, had to be pure bliss.

He'd also tell us stories of how, during the war, his family traveled to San Francisco to visit his brother who was a solider. They rode the bus all the way from Indiana, and then would stay in a hotel. He would tell us about how back then, even as a kid, he was allowed to just leave the hotel and explore the city by himself. He'd find someone who looked interesting and would follow them around, seeing where they'd go for the day.

He loved football too. He used to tell us stories of how he played while he was in college at USC. It was back in the days of soft leather helmets, and for a long time he had his helmet tucked away in a closet in house.

He had great little poems and songs he'd teach us too. It was law in his house that you learned by heart at least one of his poems. To this day, I can say it at the drop of a hat, and fully intend on teaching it to each of the boys.

Ladies and Gentlemen
I come before you, to stand behind you,
to tell you something, I know nothing about.
This Tuesday, which is Good Friday
there will be a women's meeting, for men only.
Admission is Free, pay at the door.
Plenty of seats, sit on the floor.
Next on the agenda is the four corners of the round table.

My Grandpa had two great loves in life: the water and dogs. He had a dog since before I was born. But it always seemed to me that his true love was, Sammie, a white dog that lived forever, it seemed. She was born before I was, and lived up until I was 11 or so. When Sammie died, he never got another dog, but he loved to spoil any dog in sight. His other love was the water. He lived for sailing and boating. When I was a kid he only had a little rubber zodiac. I can imagine, now, that for a man who loved sailing, it was not nearly as thrilling as he wanted, but as a kid, to my brothers and I it was quite possibly the coolest thing ever. We would spend whole weekends speeding up and down the river in that little boat, laughing as he'd cut across wake to bounce us up and down. We learned to love the water in that little boat, and it's a love that I still have. Later, he bought a sail boat, The Serendipity, and we taught us each to sail. I loved sitting on the front of that boat as it'd bob up and down in the water, or spend summer days leaning against the front of the cabin reading a book. My grandpas happiest when he was on his boat, but even more so, it seemed when he was able to share it with his grand kids. It makes me sad to think my kids were too little to ever be able to go out with him.

My Grandpa took me to see my first real theatre production ever. I couldn't have been more than 12, but I remember getting dressed up in what I thought at the time was such a grown up dress, and him taking me out to dinner before hand. The way he talked to the waitress about me, made me free so special. And then we went to the Arlene Schnizter, in Portland, and saw a Broadway review. It was sitting there, that night, that I fell in love with theatre, and knew I wanted to be an actor. My Grandpa came to every play I was ever in, no matter how big or small the role. Everything from my ridiculous second grade play to being in leading roles in things like Oklahoma! and Godspell, he was there.

I have so many other little memories of him, like how he drove down from Portland to take me to get my drivers license, and then let me drive home in his brand new car, because that's what kids are supposed to get to do when they turn 16. Or how much he loved my kids. How happy he'd be to hold each of them as new born babies, or how he loved to have them running around. Or how he practically lived at his local Sherri's for years and every waitress there knew his name, and where always thrown off when he'd not have a meal there at least once a day.

Like I said, my Grandpa Ron was a pretty awesome guy. He may not have been awesome in the way that will make history remember him, but in our family I know that he will always be remembered as someone pretty singular. I am glad he's no longer in pain, and struggling with illness, but I sure am going to miss him.

This picture represents four generations. Although, I'm not in it because I was taking it. My Grandpa, my mom, and Goob on his blessing day.


Aubri said...

Ohhhh Katie. :-( I'll be there with a huge hug when you're ready for one. What a sweet post, a great remembrance.

Allison said...

I am so sorry... I will be thinking of and hope you have a safe journey home. Love ya!

Sweet Polly Purebred said...

Katie, what a beautiful post. It made me wish I knew your grandpa. And that is a cool picture. I can see your reflection in the picture. : )

50 Toes Photo said...

Hey you! I'm so sorry about your Grandpa! It's so hard to be on the human end of loss. Your post was wonderful - he truly sounds amazing and I can tell he held a strong influence in your life. I also love the 4 generation pic - which you're totally in - I see your reflection in the glass! Love you so much and can't wait to see you!

Angelic and the Boys said...

I only knew him these last few years, but he was so accepting of me and the boys. He always had a glimmer in his eye for all the boys. I am sorry for you and your family to lose such a loving person. My love and good thoughts are with you.