But he is in that horribly sad in-between place where going would be a definite mercy. I have been thinking about him all week, all day. For months.
He is lingering, it is truly sad - but even in that, I keep thinking about how much I still want him to know my daughter. Or better said, I want her to know him. He's such an amazing man, full of incredible history that she is only just now coming to appreciate and I want him to tell her his own stories, not me. There are so many stories even I haven't heard yet.
He was a pastor all his life, he worked in an army hospital, he picked cotton and slept in the back of a truck with too many siblings making their way through the dust bowl - for decades he has served and cared for people. He loved everyone, he gave the coat off his back and his last dollar away countless times. He is such a softie and I think she'd find in him a kindred spirit and he'd teach her how to live it oh-so-beautifully.
He has twinkling blue eyes and rosy cheeks - that twinkle reminds me of my son, too. I want him to influence my little boy and be around to smuggle him secret chocolate chip cookies when Grandma says not to touch them yet, just like he did for me.
When he first got married, he confessed once to me, he used to sneak out of the house after breakfast "because I was still hungry after that one healthy bowl of oatmeal Grandma made for me." He went to a local diner for eggs, grits, ham, bacon, hot biscuits and mugs and mugs of coffee. Coffee. Always coffee. My Grandpa makes endless friends over coffee.
In fact, once, when we all lived in Amsterdam together, he came home wondering what all those leaves were on the menu where "those friendly kids run their coffee place." He had discovered a local marijuana shop. When he was told, he grinned, embarrassed, but said "they still had good coffee!"
My Grandpa came to visit us when we had our first baby and were exhausted, broke and overwhelmed. Despite being a life-long tee-totaler and conservative, my European-raised husband (who I forgot to warn) wanted to honour our guest by offering him a pour of a good red. I watched worried.
My Grandpa not only lifted his glass with us, he looked me in the eye and with his voice grown trembly, told me how proud he was of us as young parents. "You're going to be okay, honey," he said, "and just remember how proud this old man is of you."
The last time I saw him was a few years ago. We drove our children across the state where he had flown in to visit family. The kids were completely charmed by him - as was I, all over again.
He took us out for Mexican food - a family tradition - and told me again, this time over rootbeer and lemonade, how proud he was of me, of us, and how much he loved me. Only he cried - the first time I had ever seen him do that, his voice breaking and cracking my heart wide open with his.
He's such a good man. He's a gentleman.
He has had a hard few years and I have felt so far away from him and my Grandma. They are with family and are being doted on and cherished, but I miss him. We've talked a few times on the phone, each time his awareness and energy diminishing. I want so much for him to be out of pain, at peace. But at the same time I cannot imagine a world without my Grandpa. I don't want to just yet.
I don't want to at all.
My wish is that I could crawl up into his bed with him. I wish I could lay my head on his chest and whisper "Grandpa, I want you to know how proud I am of you. I always have been, I always will be. And I want you to know I will make sure my kids know what a wonderful man their Big Grandpa was . I will try to carry the things most important to you, to live them myself and pass them on."
I would hug him gently and say "And you know what, Grandpa? I made that wine-drinking grandson-in-law into a coffee drinker just for you." I would watch for any smile and kiss his fragile cheek and tell him again, "I can't stand that my kids are going to grow up without you. I can't stand that I am."
I am letting him go. I am. But I want to go on record saying a big part of my heart is broken right now. And I that love you, Grandpa.
I love you more than coffee and Mexican food and for ever.
The history of our grandparents is remembered not with rose petals but in the laughter and tears of their children and their children's children. It is into us that the lives of grandparents have gone. It is in us that their history becomes a future.
~ Charles and Ann Morse