I know I’m a bit late posting today, but for what I want to say, it’s going to take some time to write. The post might not be long, but it’s not easy for me to be vocal about this sort of thing. I get sort of choked up. If this were handwritten, I’m sure you’d see splotches at the bottom of the paper.
Friday, my paternal grandfather passed away. He was eighty-six years old and had been on dialysis for the past two years. He wasn’t in the best health, having to go back and forth to the hospital every other day, but I’m grateful that I did get to see him only a few weeks ago, when he was in better spirits than usual. We ate breakfast together and talked about a few things. He was hard of hearing, so most of the talking was me repeating myself, but his mind was healthy, and he kept up with the conversation, which is something in itself. The last thing I said to him—after hugging him goodbye—was “Enjoy your eggs.” I doubt I’ll ever forget that. He ate four scrambled eggs every morning. Sometimes toast. It’s a good last memory of him.
My grandfather—Papaw, we called him—was an industrious man. When he was in good health, he was always outside doing something—gardening, mowing, cleaning out his little brown building, and whatever other project he could find to occupy his time. His standard dress was a pair of dark blue overalls, a button up shirt, and a hat, and he always carried around one of those flat pencils for marking wood and a measuring stick that folded in on itself. When he wasn’t in his overalls, he had on slacks and a button up shirt, with a pocket watch on him. He checked the thing so often, he always knew what time it was, and for the longest time, I thought he was something magical—when I’d ask what time it was, he’d put his fingers up to the sun and estimate the time. Since he checked his watch every minute or so, he was always right. He drove an old Chevy truck he called “Old Blue,” and I remember riding downtown with him, hardly tall enough to see over the dash. When me and my sister and my cousins were small, we’d get a dollar every time we hugged him, and he’d say “Papaw loves his grandchildren.” He always smelled like old wood, grease, and hot grass.
There’s something to be said about the way he died. It was an ordinary day, up until his last moments. I’m grateful that he died the way he did, with my dad and Nanna with him. He died at home, in his wife’s arms, with her telling him how much she loved him and that he should hold on a bit longer. He didn’t die in a hospital, alone, stuck with needles and tubes, and hooked up to monitors. He died in his own house with people he loved. I can only hope I’m so lucky when I go.
Now that Papaw’s gone, I’m remembering things I had forgotten, memories of things he said or did when I was young. Most of those memories are of just hanging out with him—riding the lawnmower or the tractor or Old Blue, sitting at the lake house, riding in the party barge, and just sitting around at the house. I’ve come to terms with his death, but I can only imagine how hard it is for my dad and Nanna. We had the family visitation Saturday night, and seeing him lying there was sad, but it was also a relief in a way. Although he wanted to live and was willing to go through whatever was necessary to stay alive, he was suffering. And it’s a comfort to know that he’s at peace now. I think the hardest part about seeing him lying in the coffin was the way everyone else reacted to it. Nanna fussed about his hair and talked about how handsome a man he was, even in death. She told him she wouldn’t kiss him because he was cold, and the last time she kissed him, he was still warm. My dad was in a fit of sobs, which is hard enough in itself, considering I’m a sympathetic crier. But he was fussing over the arrangement of the things in the coffin, of Papaw’s clothes and mementos. From my perspective, he could have been sleeping—if people slept in suits and didn’t breathe. I didn’t go up to the coffin and look at him closely. I don’t want to remember him that way. I want to remember him as the strong grandpa who took me on lawnmower rides and gave me a dollar when I hugged him.
Death is a strange thing. It makes you think about life and what’s important to you, maybe a little bit too late in some cases. Papaw was the first of my grandparents to go, and though we weren’t necessarily close, I’ll miss him. When I was a kid, I thought old people lasted forever. Eighty-six years was a long time. Now, it doesn’t seem like long enough. But I suppose that makes life what it is. It’s only worth something because someday it’ll be gone.
This is my own little eulogy to Papaw, in memory of him and everything he was in life. As my Nanna keeps saying: he’s alive so long as he’s in our hearts. Her words couldn’t be more true.
|in loving memory|
Calvin Monroe Hobby
May 22, 1925 - March 2, 2012