Sometime in the beginning of February in 2006, my cousin called. “When are you going to see Grandpa?” she asked. I hadn’t planned on going to Iowa until Memorial Day weekend, but my cousin insisted we go soon. She thought Grandpa might not be around if we waited until May.
I called my mom, insisting on details. The last I had heard, Grandpa was still doing well. My mom confessed; Grandpa had fallen off the stoop to his apartment building, and had badly wrenched his neck. Nothing was broken, but the pain had made Grandpa slowly decline.
By the time my cousin and I arrived, Grandpa was already in a semi-conscious state. He acknowledged our presence, but was unable to respond much more than that. Over the next couple of days, he slipped into an unresponsive state. As the end grew near, we gathered in his bedroom and sang his favorite hymns. As he took his last breath, we were grateful that he was able to die at home, surrounded by his family.
At his 90th birthday party, Grandpa gave a speech that told about his life. He was a member of Toastmasters, and had given a speech or two before. He had held many jobs, including working in a airplane factory during the war, delivering the mail, and owning apartment buildings. Once, when my mother was growing up, he was going to sell cashews out of vending machines. The cashews were delivered, but the vending machines never did. No food was ever wasted in my grandparents house, so their family ate cashews in everything. When the cashews grew stale, Grandma toasted them in the oven. My mom still won’t even touch a cashew, to the delight of her cashew-loving children.
My grandfather could get extremely angry, but yet would never swear. My mom said that worst he used to say was “Son of a B!” She would picture a little baby bee flying around when she was little. He would whistle “Zippity-a-dee-do-dah” and knew how to play the violin, although I never heard him play.
He lived to be 96 years old. Grandpa lived a full life, and we think of him often. On October 1st, Grandpa would have been 100 years old. Happy birthday, Grandpa!
To see a picture of my grandparents dancing at my wedding in 2002, click here.