Thursday, October 18, 2007

Jenni's Granddad

Nine years ago, when I met Jenni's family, if someone had told me how upsetting it would be to lose her Granddad, I would have not believed them. But, as it turns out, it was quite an emotional experience. He was an extraordinary gentleman.
Granddad accepted me as part of the family far earlier than anyone else in Jenni's family, save perhaps his wife, Nana. In fact, there are other members of her family whom I still don't believe consider me to be part of the family yet. When we told Nana and Granddad that we were getting married, he seemed particularly pleased by the idea that I was a permanent fixture. He was never scared to crack a joke to me, or to tell me what he was thinking at any given time.
I have never been tempted to call them anything but "Nana and Granddad." That's how welcoming these two have been to me. In a lot of ways, Granddad reminded me of my own Grandpa, who died well over ten years ago. They were both conglomerates of the archetypal cowboy movie hero. Granted, they were very different people, but it was like they represented different aspects of this ideal personality.
I have to imagine that at this point, they are riding around together in the old pickup truck in heaven, looking for a new place to shoot their guns for a while. Granddad has his sharp-shooter rifle, and Grandpa has his gunslinger revolvers. They're telling each other dirty jokes and waiting for the rest of us. They'll be there when I get there, ready to show me the best places to shoot.
Then again, it's difficult to put one's mind around the idea of the lack of a time line. Since in this world, we are completely bound by our one-way time line, knowing nothing but the past as fact, since we cannot even truly perceive the present except technically through memory, it is extremely difficult to imagine not being bound to a time line. I believe that our heavenly lifetime has no beginning and no end, and the passage of time does not exist. We have a start and a finish in this world, but when we get there, so will everyone else that winds up there, even at the same time. So, by that rational, although we are missing them, they don't miss us because they have never been separated from us. When we get to heaven, we will have always been there, and always will be.
On his death bed, Granddad called me by name and said, "I love you, Michael."
I was really tempted to say, "I know," because as long as I knew him, I never had any doubt. I don't know whether it was because he knew from the start that I would do everything I could to take care of his granddaughter, or if it was because I reminded him of himself in some way, or something else completely, or a combination of all aforementioned thoughts. I suppose that I really will know someday, but the knowledge that I have is that this man was overflowing with love, and I was in his circle.
Granddad was always the one with the witty one-liner. With the exception of his love of people, the only thing that he appreciated as much as pulling the joke, was having the joke pulled on him.
When Jenni and I had gone to her family reunion, we met Nana and Granddad at one location and proceeded to the site of the reunion. Granddad rode with us to provide navigation. We were traveling down a road at about 35 miles per hour when Granddad quietly said to turn right here. "Here at this street?" I clarified, as we were on top of the right turn already. When he answered yes, I slung our tight-suspensioned import car around the hard corner.
Not missing a beat, with quiet laughter in his voice, "Well," Granddad said, "I was going to tell you that you could take the next right, because it goes to the same place."
He tried to pull a fast one on me, but my reaction was "if you tell me to turn right, I'm going to turn right!" The intent of the joke was that I would miss my turn, but there was a convenient alternative. He didn't even take into account that I might not miss the turn anyway, and he liked the irony of the situation.
He was one of the most positive people that I have ever known. Even when he was staring death in the eyes, he was always pleased to see his family, and always quick to share his wit. Even in the last few days, when asked how he felt, the standard response was "pretty good," or "not too bad," although all of us knew that the three stress fractures in his spinal column and the cancer in many major organs belied his positivity. But, I don't think that he was telling sweet lies, either. I believe that he was just that optimistic. I think that to him, it could always be worse, so that meant that he was feeling pretty good.
In the last week, his wit was very alive, as he didn't miss an opportunity to crack a joke. He asked me how I was, and when I told him that I was pretty good, he said that I might be good, but he disagreed with the "pretty" part. He just didn't think that I was very pretty. And, that was Granddad. He was the unapologetic smart-alec, and he reveled in it. Still, he would not do anything to hurt anyone's feelings, and wanted to show nothing short of reverent respect to all other people.
Yes, he will be missed. But, he doesn't miss us because we are already there as far as he's concerned. I'm proud to have him go before me, because I hope that people have at least half the nice things to say about me, and half the wonderful memories of me, as they do of him. Each of us only gets one go at this life, and he did a heck of a job at his.

1 comment:

Jennifer said...

That was really nice baby. Well said.