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Tuesday, September 23, 2008

My grandpa

Some of my first memories as a child are of him. They were always around in some ways, but when I was three years old, he cemented our relationship for life. He and my dad were moving my aunt and cousins from California back to Texas. We were a caravan of sorts. My dad in the moving van, my aunt in her car with her kids and dogs and my mom, brothers and I riding with my grandparents. I sat in the front seat on the arm rest (who needs stinking seat belts?) in between my grandparents. We sang the entire way. He found me quite an easy going kid, at least this is what my grandmother told me the other day. I was content to read my books, color and sing with him...for two days straight. The memory that is ingrained in my head is him teaching me a new song, just as we hit the Texas border; I scream, you scream, we all scream for ice cream. Perfect timing mind you, as Texas was the Dairy Queen capital of the world. When my grandmother made him past the first one, his eyes twinkled as he turned to me and said, lets keep singing until your grandma changes her mind. She did, at the very next town.

I wrote his obituary, it was my contribution to my family last week. I'll share it here with you. I've X'd out certain details and I hope you'll understand.

"Charles B. XXXX Jr., age 86, of XXXX, Texas, died on Sept. 12th, 2008, in XXXX Meadows. His loving family surrounded him as he went home to the Lord. Charles was born on Dec. 15th, 1921, to Charles B. XXXX and Martha Ann XXXX in XXXX, Texas. Charles married Glena XXXX on Jan. 20th, 1953.

Charles left Texas A&M University to join the Army Air Corp in 1942. He served as a pilot in New Guinea during WWII. He served for 28 years in the Air Force before retiring as a Lt. Col. and starting a second career in real estate and general contracting in XXXX, Texas. He served as president of the XXXXX Board of Realtors. As a respected businessman, he was known for his integrity and servant heart.

Charles was a devoted Christian who loved God, his family, his church, and his community. He taught Sunday school and served on committees at almost every duty station and church of which he was a member, spanning a course of almost 50 years.

His civic contributions included building a nursery addition at XXXX Baptist Church, chairman of the remodeling committee at XXXX Baptist Church, fundraising for the Girl Scouts, and remodeling the Maternity Cottage, a home for unwed mothers. Perhaps his greatest contribution to the community was his visionary leadership in facilitating community involvement and a capital fundraising drive for a new women's shelter for First Step, where he also served as a board member. He donated general contracting services to build this wonderful, upgraded facility, which provides a place of safety and comfort for women and children of this community. As a result of his contributions to First Step Shelter, he was awarded the Texas Man of the Year award.

Charles is survived by his wife, Glena; his five daughters (Am taking out all of the names here, as it was starting to look a bit x rated) and his son; 14 grandchildren; and 13 great-grandchildren; his sisters, Bernice and Charlene; as well as numerous nieces, nephews, and cousins.

He was proceeded in death by his mother and father as well as his six siblings. Charles was a good man, who will be sorely missed.

There will be a formal military salute to honor Charles' contribution as a military veteran at the graveside."

Here's the thing though, this tells you nothing about the man my grandfather truly was. Basic details sure, but not the real man that I knew and adored. Granted this is a long Obit; the final editing took place by committee, headed by the head honcho, my grandma. She wanted it to say so much more, she wanted the world to know what an amazing man she'd married and loved. I'm with her, I want the world to know what an amazing man he was. To tell you all every small detail about him that made me adore him; made my brothers and cousins and I look up to him. That made 295 people show up to his service. But there's no way to do it, to give him the justice he deserves. I couldn't do it in his obituary, nor can I do it here. But I will tell you a few things about him, small things, so you can have a taste of what he meant to us. So you can understand how I had to hide in bed for a week.

When we'd visit, he'd take me and my brothers to work with him. He'd pay us to work for him, from like five years old on. Sometimes it was shredding files or filing things to help his secretary. Once he had us move a hole huge stack of bricks forty feet. Brick by brick. Other times we'd wash his and grandma's cars and he'd pay us in watermelon. He taught us to be hard workers, to do our work right the first time and to appreciate the money we were making. He also taught us to do things for others, because it was the right thing to do, not because we'd get anything back for it.

When I was ten years old, he found out my aunt was being beaten by her husband. He forced her to leave him and turned him into the cops. Then he designed and built a shelter for battered women and children. It's a state of the art facility on land that he donated. He had the materials donated and found people to donate their time to build it. He furnished it himself and set up a fund to pay the taxes for twenty years.

They had a house on a lake that we spent weeks every summer at. It would be them and a whole group of grandchilden. We swam (in life vests) all day, boated and learned how to play tons of different types of card games. There was this huge hill from the house down to the lake and he used to ride him lawn mower for hours, making the hill grassy for us to roll down. We always worried that he'd roll that lawn mower down the hill and asked him to bring the regular mower up to the house. He always said, no, I'm good on this one...till the day he rolled it into the lake. Thankfully he wasn't too hurt. But when the doctor asked him, he said, I should have listened to my grandchildren, they told me and I didn't believe them.

My grandpa was the strong silent type. All he had to do was look at you and nod his head a bit and you stopped doing whatever you weren't supposed to be doing. He had a presence, anyone who knew him would tell you this. People would always say, oh you're Chuck's grandkid? Oh he's a great man, he helped me out this one time. Because he had, he always helped anyone in need. But give him a baby to hold or a toddler to sing too and his face just lit up. He loved little kids and they always loved him too.

When I flunked seventh grade on purpose (to see if I could, a story for another day), my mom made me call and explain it to him. I was so sure of what I'd done until I had to explain it to him, then it just seemed immature and idiotic. He told me he was disappointed, that if I'd wanted to make a point about our education system, there were better ways to do it; that he expected me to right this wrong. I did and I've never done something quite so stupid, just to see if I could. I never disappointed the man again.

A week and a half ago, hospice gave my grandmother a week to live. The nurse asked her if there was anything they could do for her. She said, not thinking it was possible, I'd like to see my husband one more time. The nurse went down to the nursing facility and brought him to see her. They laid, side by side, in hospital beds and held hands. She said good by to him, that she'd see him on the other side. He said, don't worry my love, I'll be holding the door open for you. More words than he'd said since Thanksgiving of last year. He died the next night. They had a love affair like one you see in the movies. Second marriage for both, but they'd been married for almost fifty-seven years.

I love a Brad Paisley song, Waiting on a Woman. Well that was them, he waited on her for years. On Friday, just before he passed my mom held the phone up to his ear; I told him, Grandpa, I'm sure there is a park bench outside the gates of Heaven, you can wait for Grandma there.

Some people flit about the world, never making a difference, only thinking about themselves. My grandfather was not that man. He spent his entire life trying to make this world a better place. A giving, caring, selfless man; a man I will always miss, has left this earth. There is a big hole in my heart.


flybunny said...

What an amazing tribute to an amazing man. We truly are missing an angel on earth.

I have to tell you that I cried (actually still am)when I read what your grandmother's last wish was - to find a love like that, well we should all be so lucky.

Hugs to you my friend!

Jade, Will and Illy said...

Heartfelt and heart-wrenching... what a post. He sounds like an amazing man who will be sorely missed by the world.

I teared up, too, at what he said to your Grandma when they were laying together... and the fact that it was the most he'd said in so long. He must have really wanted her, and all of you, to know what their life together had meant to him. I'm sure he's sitting on that park bench, now, waiting... Thanks for sharing, it meant a lot!

Becky said...

that was so so perfectly written.

Delusional Girl Ruby Soho said...

That was beautiful.

debra said...

What a beautiful story about a wonderful man! I'm so glad you had someone like that in your life.

whensheworeponytails said...

What a beautiful tribute. And what a beautiful love story. Don't we all wish we had such a love story?

There's another country song that came to mind when I was reading what you wrote. Neal McCoy's "Last of a dying breed".

It reminds me of my Papa, too, actually. And his story and your Grandpa's sound so similar. Papa is still here but everyday I see him fade a little. And I'm so scared of the day he'll be gone.

I wish and pray for strength and comfort for you and your family.

I'm so sorry for your loss.