Wish I was there . .
My passport is ready and I can be packed in minutes.

02 September 2010

Grandpa B

We shouldn't have expected your death to be easy as there was very little in your life that was easy.  You were born into a family that had little.  You quit school in the seventh grade to go to work until you were eighteen, and then you went to war.  Those years weren't talked about, but we all knew that your jobs had to do with the gathering of bodies.  Gram once let it slip that you still had nightmares and you would wake up yelling.  When you returned, you and Gram had your family - seven boys and a girl.  You farmed, you opened a little mechanic shop that eventually grew into a car dealership, and mostly in those early years you just tried to survive.  With your seventh grade education and Gram's high school diploma, you created a successful car dealership. While you eventually had other brands, you will always been known as SAAB dealer. Not only did you sell them, but the stories of your racing them on land and ice are still told.  As are the stories of your fast and wild "driving" on the back roads of Maine.

You gave up your old farm house to move into your in-laws farmhouse so that Gram could take care of her father.  That is the farm house of my childhood - where we hayed in the summer and gathered for Thanksgiving, too many of us to fit around the table.  Somewhere in there you bought some land on a lake and a small camp from somewhere else.  The story goes that you waited for the ice to freeze so you could drive across the ice and drag the camp to the land where it still sits today.  It was there that you and Gram had a good group friends in similar circumstances, and in the summer after work you had "cocktail hour" while the kids ran wild. Your great grand children still swim and fish at the camp. 

You weren't easy.  You were hard and didn't show affection.  You drank and when you lost your sixth son, Uncle Jimmy, in a car accident you became an alcoholic.  We thought the alcohol might have done you in when you crashed your car in the early 90s, instead you quit drinking.  The doctors wanted you to stop smoking also, but you said if you quit that too, you'd be so pure no one would know you.  It was when the great-grandchildren came along that you finally let yourself express the joy of your large family.

Grandpa B and KK

Grandpa B and Hew

When Gram died seventeen months ago, you knew you were in trouble.  Dementia had already begun its theft of your memory and Gram was who had kept you straight for so many years.  The memory of you saying good bye to Gram still makes me sob.  We too couldn't image you without Gram.  Since then, dementia has continued to rob you - you forgot that Gram had died and had to be retold.  You didn't recognize your grand-children and eventually your children.  By the end, you didn't even know who you were.  Your family cared for you until the last month.  By then, you'd become combative - wanting to fight you grandchild one night in confusion.  We softly laughed at the irony that the week your youngest great-grandchild was written up at pre-school for biting, you too were written up for hitting another patient at the nursing home.  You always were a fighter.

So when you died last week, we all couldn't help being a bit relieved.  You would have never wanted to live the way you had the last few months - scared, unknowing, and alone, even when you were surrounded by the large family you'd created.  I hope that you finally have the peace that you worked so hard for.


Merisi said...

My heartfelt condolences, Hexe!
You wrote a lovely, loving eulogy.
A big hug,

hexe said...

Merisi, Thank you for your condolences. Three grandparents in 17 months - we always joked that because they were the same age, they would die one after the other. Really wish we weren't right this time :)

Expat Traveler said...

Oh hexe, my heart goes out to you!

That's such a great story and it does look like he finally lived his life in his 90's! He was lucky to have seen great grand kids though for sure!! So many people never make it to see so many generations! It was definitely his time to go and you've got great memories to share of his life. :)

Irish Nomad said...

My commiserations on your grandfather's passing. You've given a real sense of the man here, so eloquent and heartfelt, yet honest without embellishment. Thank you for sharing this.

hexe said...

E.T. and Irish Nomad - thank you for your kind words. My grandfather was certainly "a character".