Today is the 24th anniversary of my grandaddy's death. Bittersweet because the time had come, he had been in pain and sick for quite some time with heart problems. He had his 2 anyeurism fixed in 1984, and had problems every since. I lived at the beach the summer between my senior year and my first year of college. He came down and stayed a few days and was happy and looked to be the healthiest I had seen in years. Though I knew he wasn't. He was always a "mountain man", seemed to favor his yearly trips to the NC mountains much more than the beach. But that summer, those few days, the beach was the same for him as it is for me. A healing place, a sanctuary, a special place.
My grandaddy went back into the hospital about 2 weeks before I was due to start college. I knew he was a very sick man. The doctors argued over this and that, he was in ICU, he was out, he was back in. They decided to do exploratory surgery and put it off till August 25th so that my mother could get me moved into school and she could get back home. We moved me in and then my mom and I went to spend, ironcally one last weekend of summer at the beach. If you read Monday's 2nd post, you already know this, but I am sharing it again...it is that special of a moment for me.
After returning from the beach and seeing my mom off, I called my grandaddy at Duke Hospital to tell him we were back from the beach and I wished him luck and told him I loved him so very much. My grandaddy said to me, "This is the last time we will ever talk or see each other, but I want you to study hard, but have a great time all the same." I started crying and told him that wasn't true, that he would make it through surgery just fine and we would see each other soon. We told each other "I love you" one more time and hung up. Somehow I knew, but put it in the back of my mind as I started my college classes that Monday. He knew. He passed away during surgery on Monday, August 25th, 1986. I hold that final conversation so close in my heart. In fact, I didn't share it with anyone for quite a long time.
But this was God's time and God's will, and it was just my grandaddy's time to go.
I have this hanging in my living room:
It's not the best picture I have of this but I just can't for the life of me find the better one.
The dog tags, my grandaddy gave to me after I found them in his top drawer when I was younger. He gave it to me, and in fact, they hung on my bulletin board all through college. The letter is from Ronald Reagan to my grandmother thanking her for his service. And the picture is of my grandaddy in his uniform. My mother has a larger picture. The mat is "army green"/gray and the frame is black. When you walk in my living room it is straight in front of you. The framer sealed in archival "plastic" the envelope the letter came in.
Though you shouldn't have heroes on earth, my grandaddy was a hero to me. He was a large intimidating man. In fact, he was to me a tall and large man who had the smallest ankles. I often wondered how he managed to stand with such small ankles. He loved his recliner and he loved me. If anyone was sitting in that recliner when he walked into the room, they got out quickly. I just kept on sitting in that recliner and he never said a word. He loved his Pepsi in the little 10 oz bottles and they were so cold. I remember going with him to the store to buy them...he gave me the money, way more than they cost, and I went in, bought them, and he let me keep "the change". Other than my daddy, I would say my grandaddy (my mom's dad) was the 2nd love of my life. I adored him to no end. And if I was ever to have had a son, part of my son's name would have a part of my grandaddy's name.
Today, I will do what many southern people do, I will talk to the dead. I will have a conversation with my grandaddy. Unfortunately, he was buried where I am from, and not where I live, or I would go visit with him. I plan to do that next year on the 25th anniversary. I will take him some flowers, clean up his burial site, and visit a short while. Yes, us southerners do things like that.
But grandaddy, you were wrong that Sunday night. You told me you would never see me again. However, I know where you are, and one day, when it is again God's timing, we will see each other again!
I miss you and love you, grandaddy!!