1.06.2005

Grandad

i'm not sure if it's worse that i am crying at my desk, or that i am crying at my desk and no one has noticed. am i usually this pink & puffy?

my grandad died yesterday. or maybe tuesday night. i guess; we don't really know, since he died in his sleep. and that's the best way to go. i guess; we don't really know. he had been diagnosed with congestive heart failure a long while back, but he was doing perfectly fine for a long time. and then he needed oxygen, but just a little tank and it came with the push-scooter-thing and it actually wasn't intrusive at all. he could leave it behind if we needed to go to dinner or something like that, and he was the same ole grandad, the one who never stopped talking about football or the war or how much he loves Bush.

so when i came home for christmas, i asked when the grandparents were coming over for christmas eve church. "they're not," i was told. okay, no big deal...so when are they coming over tomorrow for christmas day? "they're not," i was told again. "grandad isn't doing too well."

but even then i wasn't prepared for what i saw christmas day. grandad was really thin. he was on more oxygen, and leaving it behind wasn't an option now. his hair was much longer, since he hadn't been able to leave the house to cut it, and his Roll Tide cap sat awkwardly on his head. he didn't have the energy to open his presents, but he got excited about everyone of them. he just sat in his chair and told us each how much he loved us, and how we'd never really know, while his eyes filled with tears.

"you know, if i had a son, that son would be john carlos. he is the best dad ever, and i love him." and i looked at my dad and he had tears in his eyes, too.

then grandad turned to me and told me how to buy a car. yes, how to buy a car. see, grandad had been a car salesman, and he explained to me how to find the best value for your money, buying new or used. it was as if he wanted to give me this one last life lesson, just in case he never had the chance again. it was ridiculously amusing and sad, at the same time. bittersweet.

my grandad was always supportive, always easygoing, always happy to see us, always good for a long (and i mean long) talk. he could talk about anything and he loved to tell stories. particularly war stories. he has scrapbooks of photographs and letters and travel journals, documenting all his years in the navy. he told stories of how he was the youngest man on the ship so the other guys used to make him do all kinds of harebrained pranks, like the time they lowered him by a rope around the waist into the gully of the ship to steal some booze and food.

but the best story he ever told me, the one i had him retell on christmas day, happened towards the end of the war. he never knew it's significance, however, until many years later. at my parents rehearsal dinner grandad and pawpaw, my father's father, were talking about the war and sharing memories of where they had been and when. grandad asked pawpaw if he had ever been in the philippines.

"why yes, as a matter of fact." replied pawpaw. and he explained which island he was on.

"where you there in 1943?" asked grandad.

"yes, yes i was." pawpaw was astonished.

pawpaw's unit had been under heavy attack and a rescue naval unit had been sent in to get them out. as it turns out, it was grandad's unit that had been sent in to rescue pawpaw's unit. they had been on the same ship at the same time in the middle of the world's craziest war.

my step-mother's father had saved my father's father's life.

and they didn't know it until almost 50 years later.

i've always been grateful for that. my life, and those of my whole family, might have been very different had that coincidence never taken place. but i never told grandad thank you. it seemed too sappy, to overly sentimental (even for me) to say thank you. so i'll say it now.

thank you, grandad. i love you.