Mom called shortly after 5:00 AM on Friday, April 11; I knew before I picked up the phone who it was, and what she was going to say. I was alone when she called to tell me Granddad had just passed away; M was in Ohio that entire week and I was picking him up from the airport that afternoon. After I hung up, I laid awake in bed and thought of the loss the world the world was waking up to.
Bob called shortly after, to make sure I was okay; GJ called about a minute later. It was pretty hateful that I knew I HAD to go to work. I told very few people there, not able to speak it quite yet, and left around 4:00 to pick Matt up at BWI.
We had planned to stay the night, before Granddad died. We had planned to stay at Grandma's, just to help. Just in case. Instead, we picked up pizza stayed at late at Mom's.
I don't remember the weekend. I think we went to Ann Taylor Loft to get me a black dress to wear to the funeral. I thought about going to work on Monday, but decided to go to spend the day with Mom instead. She asked me, as she had before, if I would read a poem for her during the service the next day...and if I could thank Grandma for taking care of him. Of course.
The viewings were at 2pm and 6pm; a parade of relatives, old neighbors, family friends. Flowers in the shape of a baseball diamond, of a baseball, flowers everywhere. We shared stories, memories, favorite things about him. How he had nicknames for everyone (Mom's kids are Palamino, Cannonball and BB), how he said "I'm a lovin' you" to everyone. How he DID love everyone! He'd answer the phone by asking "Who's this I'm a lovin'?" It could've been the cableman calling; it made no difference to him.
We had dinner at a barbeque place in between the viewings, in the kind of place that offered Keno and an unpaved parking lot. It was perfect. The kind of uncomplicated food and family togetherness Granddad preferred.
Tuesday was the funeral, held in the funeral home. The pastor was a cousin's friend. The gospel was given by the cousin; the eulogy by me and via and aunt's letter, then the pastor gave a few more words and we where shephered out to our cars where we took a seemingly endless drive to Suitland, to bury my Granddad beneath a cherry tree. It was leaving there that I finally, truly broke down.
Afterward, we all drove to Carol's for food, then M and I went to Mom's for a while, then home, then bed. And all night, I heard my own voice:
Mom found a poem she really wanted to be a part of Granddad’s services. But it’s not like she’d be willing to stand here and read it, so I’m here. And it’s not like I can just read it without adding my own two cents.
As everyone who knows me knows, I spent a lot of time at Grandma’s house when I was young. And one of my favorite pastimes, when not lashing out at my brother, was to climb up on Grandma’s lap and insist that she repeat my favorite stories. There was the one about her mom’s discovery of her extra thumb, when a schoolmate ate her syrup sandwich… But my favorite was the story about the grocery trip, where her mother sent her to find a certain item and a handsome young employee helped her find the “honey, honey?”
Granddad embodied everything I thought a good man should be. He took care of his wife, his five girls adored him, he worked for the same company his entire career, he loved trains and John Wayne and baseball … and us.
He was, to his very core, good. I can barely get through a day without losing my temper, raising my voice, or uttering a few unkind words. But that is how he lived, every day. It’s like he was an angel long before he died.
He lived 84 years, had a good life, a large, loving family, good health, and he died peacefully at home; I don’t think his story could be better that. And on behalf of the entire family, I need to thank Grandma, for showing amazing strength in those last few weeks, for taking care of him all those years you were together... and for not being able to find the honey on your own.
They say memories are golden,
Well, maybe that is true;
We never wanted memories,
We only wanted you.
A million times we needed you,
A million times we cried;
If love alone could have saved you,
You never would have died.
In life we loved you dearly,
In death we love you still;
In our hearts you hold a place
No one could ever fill.
If tears could build a stairway
And heartache make a lane;
We'd walk the path to heaven
And bring you back again.
Our family chain is broken,
and nothing seems the same;
But as God calls us one by one,
The chain will link again.