We said our last goodbye to my Grandpa a little over a week ago.
Grandpa had Alzheimer’s for several years now – so in many ways it’s been a long, slow goodbye.
But, as one friend put it so beautifully, “even with slow good-byes, there is fresh pain at the end.”
And there was.
We shed many tears as we shared memories.
Good memories. Sweet memories.
Memories that brought back the Grandpa before Alzheimer’s, the strong, gentle man with the big smile and even bigger heart.
I have snapshots of Grandpa in my mind.
He was a farmer.
His wardrobe consisted of overalls or blue jeans with a blue cotton work shirt.
And a smile. He always had a smile.
I can see him coming in the farmhouse for dinner (at noon), going into the washroom off the porch and changing from his dirty outside overalls into a clean pair and “washing up”. He’d come to the table with damp hair, his overall buttons open showing his BVD’s and a big grin.
I can see him sitting there at the head of the table, in one hand a big slice of bread (which was on the table at every meal) slathered in butter, in the other hand his fork.
I can see him standing him in the doorway greeting us as we drove in the yard to visit. Then, since I was terrified of Smoke the dog (who was the biggest, gentlest, oldest dog ever) he would go and tie up him up so I would get out of the car. He did it every time and never once told me it was silly to be afraid of dogs.
We were important to Grandpa.
Later in the afternoon, I can see him sitting beside us at the table for “lunch” (this is the meal served mid-afternoon after dinner but before supper). He would distract us and then take our bowl of Schwan’s ice cream and hide it under the table.
I can still see his twinkling eyes as he told us not to drink that root beer because it would put hair on our chests.
He loved to tease.
That’s the picture I see most often in my mind – Grandpa’s great big grin and his twinkling eyes.
Grandpa loved us. I don’t ever remember hearing him say it. But we knew it. He showed us in so many ways.
He loved Grandma, too.
Most of my memories of Grandpa, like my memories of Grandma, are intertwined. They were such a team. He was a bit of a character and Grandma balanced him perfectly. He would start something and Grandma would watch with a smile.
Even after 71 years of marriage as they were sitting in their wheel chairs at the nursing home…
Even after Grandma’s heart was weak and her breath shallow and Grandpa’s mind was gone…
Even then they held hands.
Even then they would look at each other with love in their eyes.
And that is my favorite snapshot of all.
So this is one last goodbye, Grandpa.
Thank you for bringing us laughter and love.
For showing us what a strong and committed marriage looks like.
For being strong and gentle, tough and tender, and fun.
I love you.
We were so blessed to have you in our lives.