My grandfather died this morning. He was 99 years and 4 months old. Two weeks ago, I thought he would make it to the 100-year mark. But, then he stopped eating, and we knew it was a matter of time. He died at home, his wife by his side.
This is my favorite picture of Granddad. He was 94 years old here (2007)
Despite the distance – he lived in Maryland – and the fact that I saw him infrequently, he has been a consistent presence in my life forever. Since the day I was born.
When I was six years old, he shaved my head and put stiches in it after my brother spun me around and cracked my head on the edge of the coffee table. He was pretty self-sufficient that way. No need for a hospital ER when you can take care of it at home!!
Every night (until very recently) he had a cocktail – an Old Fashioned. I have memories of him muddling the orange wedge, bitters and sugar into the bottom of the glass and topping it off with bourbon. See? Daily drinking does produce longevity – or it did in his case.
My grandfather was an incredibly smart man, who had an undying passion for trains. He even built steam engines – his pride and joy. Although he became legally blind many years back, he finagled a magnifying system that would allow him to read recipes and to cook. Mostly serious by nature, I remember rare times when he would break into deep, teary-eyed laughter. It surprised me to see him like that, because he was always so serious, almost stern. His laughter made him real, relatable and warm. Seeing him laugh made me happy. He had kind eyes.
Granddad holding my son Sam – almost 15 years ago
I think when someone very old passes, you still aren’t prepared. The finality and reality doesn’t completely hit you until it is really over and done. Death is so strange. Someone is here, then they are not. There is the sensation that my parents are next in line, then me. Yet, things never really go in order, do they? When we are young, we think we will never be old. When we are young, we never think we will die. But, we will and we will. Let’s enjoy the ride while we’re still on it and able to feel the wind in our faces.
Today my mom, my aunt and my uncle lost their father, and I am very sad for them about that.
My grandfather had a long life and a life well lived – 99+ years ain’t too shabby. Goodbye, Granddad.