This is my Grandfather. Yesterday morning he passed away.
He was a farmboy. He lost his mother when he was a small boy, he lost his brothers when they were far too young, and he lost a son painfully and horribly early. When he was first married he tended to pregnant mares and collected their urine to make hormones for menopausal women, my grandmother says the smell was staggering. He was in the Army and drove trucks full of supplies in Philippines. He built dozens of good, strong homes that are still lived in and loved. He was a good business man and a fair landlord. I never saw him smoke a cigarette or have a drink, and I never heard him cuss, though I am 100% certain he did all those things. He was not tall or big, but he loomed large. And he loved my grandmother so tenderly and genuinely for more than 65 years.
I don't feel like we were particularly close or that I knew him very well. I was an emotional and sensitive kid, an angsty teen, and busy young adult, a classically self-centered idiot of a child. He was a quiet man, I was a quiet child. Growing up I remember him as serious and maybe a bit stoic. I remember him reading the paper. I remember him working in the barn or driving the tractor. I remember him at the office and the importance of being on very good behavior when we were there. I remember holidays and birthdays. When I was 14 and hiking out in the Rockies, he sent me a couple dozen squares of toilet paper and one of the nicest letters I have ever received. I know I did myself a huge disservice by not getting to know him as a person when I could, not being brave enough to ask questions or simply just see his human, non-grandfather side sooner.
And I don't know if I will ever really forgive myself for never saying something I had been contemplating for a decade or more. I didn't think I could get the words out, I always thought I would put it down in a letter to make it easier, but I never did.
So, here. Grandpa, thank you. Thank you first for your part in raising my father into a kind and loving man and a good father. If this was your only legacy, it would be hard to do better. And thank you for working so damned hard for your entire life that enabled me to have advantages that wouldn't have been possible otherwise. It never seemed like you did it for the acclaim or accolades, but only for the love and betterment of your family. And it worked! You succeeded! I am a better person, a happy, blessed person because of you. So thank you. And I am so, so sorry I couldn't say it when it counted. I only hope you knew it anyway.
My grandfather died on a sunny morning, only steps away from his wife of 65 years in a house he built himself and lived in for 35 years. I had seen him the weekend before and he seemed happy and had a bit of an appetite. So much of his life is shadows to me, but I see the affects of his life in mine every single day.