Monday, May 7, 2012

Grandpa Jack

Grandpa, Miles and I in 2010

This week, my grandpa passed away.  He was in a lot of pain near the end, so we are all relieved to know that he no longer has to suffer.  On top of that, ever since Grandma died in 2010, Grandpa's heart has been broken.  It's nice to think of a little heart repair going on right now.

The last time I saw grandpa was last fall at Boston Pizza.  When we were finished eating, Barbara took the boys to the car and I waited with Grandpa inside while uncle Dale brought his van around to the front.  I knew that we would be coming back to China within a few days, so I knew that this would have probably been the last time that I saw him.

Grandpa was a cool grandpa.  He had a lot of quirky things laying around his house, like Rubik's cubes, slinkys, a coo-coo clock, an old fashioned hair drying chair that they used to use in salons.  Basically, a lot of hipster stuff that he was too cool to even know was hipster stuff, which I think is the true definition of a hipster.

He had batteries and dead batteries and battery chargers and dead battery chargers.  Mixed nuts and nut crackers at Christmas, a giant mural of a country cabin on the far wall of the basement with an overhead screen that pulled down.  I'm not sure what the mural and the screen were for.  He had some bunny rabbit piggy banks that he would fill with loose change and give to us when they were full.

All of that weird, cool stuff,  he had.  I mean, he even built a secret museum in the back of his garage full of old tools, old record players and all kinds of useless junk.  Junk that belonged in his museum.  Us grand kids love playing around in that old house.

I should also mention that around the age of 16 up until probably 28, a lot of the time, Grandpa would call me "Greg".  He was not senile, he just called me Greg.  He couldn't figure out why, no one could figure out why.  He just called me Greg.

I think that Grandpa had a video camera before anyone else did.  He taped everything.  We would sit down to eat our Thanksgiving meal and he would set up his giant camera in the corner on a tripod and tape the whole thing.  Just one angle, of all of us sitting there, out of earshot.  He must have had miles and miles of tape.  He had tape of my mom learning how to walk, tape of me singing "on top of spaghetti" for Grandma, tape of just about everything.  Imagine what he could have done in the digital age.

Grandpa was a pretty stern man.  He was very traditional.  We didn't have dancing at our wedding because I think Grandma and Grandpa might not have approved.  I don't know, I never talked to them about it.  With a lot of changes going on in our family over the past few years, I think that Grandpa started to feel like his world was falling apart.  He reacted in the only way he knew; the traditional, fundamental Christian way.  I'm not sure if it did a lot of good or too much bad, but it was what he knew how to do, and what he believed to be right.  He did it all for his love for his family.  It would be a mistake to doubt his love for his family.  He had a really kind heart beating inside his chest.

He was also quite funny.  One of the best stories I've ever heard:  Grandpa and my brother Bryce are moving furniture around in Grandma and Grandpa's bedroom.  Grandpa pulls out a drawer and puts in on the bed.  It happens to be Grandma's bathing suits.  Grandpa must have seen the opportunity for a joke at this point because he picked up the suit and held it up in front of his body and said to Bryce, "What am I?  A heterosexual?!"  I think he had his terms confused there, which turned out to be funnier than he had hoped for.

Around 2004, I worked with Grandpa in his yard for about a month.  Those were good times.  They have a nice yard full of memories to ponder while I was digging around in the garden and pounding in fence posts.  We'd go in at noon and Grandma would have lunch all set up for us.  The 3 of us would chat about whatever we felt like for about a hour, then Grandpa and I'd head back out to work.  It was a really nice time in my life.  At the time I even wrote a song about it.  I'm going from memory now, so here are the best parts of the tune:

Spent 3 weeks and 16 days with Jack in the Spring in the yard in the summer haze.
Digging up the dirt and racking the grass, I thought about how the time had past.
Jack told me the very same thing as we sat in the garden sipping our drinks.
And he taught me how to hammer he taught me how to tend the flowers in the garden at 
the Spring time's end.

Now Jack leaned back on the ladder leaning back on the back of the garden shed wall.
But the ladder wasn't steady and poor Jack wasn't ready to go down in such a fall.
But he popped back up and said he's okay and I said that's ol' Jack the same old way.
He said it must have looked bad but it wasn't that bad, you see.
I may be getting older but I'm only feeling younger cause the doctor keeps repairing my knees.

I guess you kind of need the tune to understand how it goes.  It's kind of a folksy, plucky little song that I never finished.

Anyways, back to Boston Pizza...

So it had all come to this; Grandpa and I sitting in Boston Pizza.  He was skinny as a rail, his foot was swollen, infected and bandaged up.  That strong man that used to teach us how to golf and then kill us at golf was sitting there next to me, tired and broken.  He had on his blue/grey jacket and one of his many mesh-back baseball hats.  I helped him up from the bench and we walked out into the Autumn chill.

The van pulled up and uncle Dale helped me help Grandpa into the front seat.  I remember thinking, "this is it, Brett.  Say good-bye."

I didn't say goodbye, but I did something I'd never done before.  I kissed him.  He was sitting in the passenger seat and I was leaning in to give him a hug.  I hugged him, and in such close, intimate quarters, I looked him in the eye and told him that I loved him and that he'd done well as a Grandpa.  He smiled at me and I kissed him on the check and hugged him again.  It was a special moment that I am very glad to have initiated.

We don't always get the opportunity to say good-bye like that, but it happened to me that day.  Looking back, I am very grateful and thankful for it.


I need to add that MCA of the Beastie Boys died the day I found out that Grandpa died.  My friend posted this tribute video:

That morning I cuddled with my boys and watched this video 3 or 4 times.  I teared up by the middle of the first time.  In a weird twist of the universe, this song will now forever remind me of my Grandpa.

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