November 19, 2009

Life Advice From Granddaddy Roy

So my grandfather died. This is delayed a great deal, but the sentiment is the same.

My grandmother was married to him for 56 years, an eternity, and it's clear that she doesn't really know what to do with herself. I left yesterday morning, and she insisted on making me breakfast. She asked what I wanted to drink and when I said, "oh, don't worry, I've got it." She goes "NOW YOU LET ME BE BUSY." So I let her pour me a glass of OJ to go along with the bacon and eggs she also insisted on making. As she was making breakfast, she misted up a bit and said, "now this is when I start to miss Roy." Roy E., as she called him.

Later, I asked her if I should strip the bed I slept in or make it, and she said I should leave it. So there were comforters and pillows all over the place and I feel a little guilty, but on the other hand, what is she going to do? She dropped me off at the airport (something she wouldn't have been able to do before, since she's had to call someone to keep an eye on granddad in order to leave the house for quite some time) and it was clear that she felt pretty good about being able to do that. Then again, I overheard her at the visitation saying "You know, I'll be able to leave the house now. Of course, I'd rather have Roy in the house than be able to leave it."

The woman is a force of nature, and the only ever time I'd seen her cry was on their 50th wedding anniversary, when she said "Fifty greatest years of my life." (Of course, she hadn't lived 50 years without him, but it was touching all the same.) She plans to go to England for her 80th birthday. She has all her original parts. She makes a mean pie (though with the wrong flour it gets all messed up and she gets really upset). And you know what? She'll be okay, eventually, and she'll get to England and eventually get used to the empty house. She deserves to do whatever the hell she wants for the rest of her life.

As for granddad, well. It's hard to know that he ended the way that he did. Part of me wishes I had had the chance to see him one last time, to say goodbye, but part of me is glad that I only saw him toward the beginning of his steep and (really, thankfully) quick descent. He was stubborn as a mule and sharp as a tack and I think he would have hated knowing what was happening to him. That it only lasted a few weeks at the worst of it was thankful, if heart-wrenching.

As for me, losing two grandparents in four months is not how I imagined the fall season going. I think I sort of thought that they were invincible. In a "I know everyone dies eventually" kind of way, I never really thought they would die.

Anyway, here is the eulogy that I gave at the funeral (something grandma insisted on, and how do you say no?):

Life advice from Grandaddy: Keep your chin over the table. Quit bangin' on that piano. Find a hollowed out oak.

He was stern, yes,believed everything had a way, and wanted all of us to find our way, to be the best we could be, and also he wanted us to not get grandma's jam on the carpet. We didn't, around granddaddy, because he inspired us in a lot of ways to be better than we were, to sit up, to be respectful.

But he was also a loving man. He was funny, goofy, told stories. He didn't want us bangin' on that piano, no, but he did want us to play it--he got a lot of joy out of hearing the music of Steve and Jim, one of his favorite things in the world. Like I said, he inspired all of us to be better at whatever it was that we were doing, whether it be attempting to play piano or acting in school plays--granddad came to my 5th grade theater debut--or studying in school. "Are you getting all A's?" He also took me with him to the golf course a few times, his favorite place on earth, let me drive that golf cart he loved, and taught me to putt. He wanted us to be the best at everything, and I think that's when I first discovered I'm really good at watching golf.

One of my favorite things granddad did was come in and tell me bedtime stories, and I used to pretend to not be able to fall asleep until I heard one. They were all the same, but it was something about his voice when he talked about the cold and the snow that inspired the little boy and the little girl to stop worrying and hide out in an old, hollowed out oak until morning. I loved it, and the same man that fought in World War II and won a Distinguished Flying Cross and golfed three days a week with his buddies and told me to keep my chin over the table loved telling me those stories.

He was a great man, and a great grandfather. I love him and I miss him.

Roy E., the man that caused my grandmother to swoon:

Granddaddy Roy, the man I knew:

No comments: