My Grandad passed away on Tuesday morning. It still feels a little strange to say it. We lived near my grandparents growing up, so my grandfather was an important part of my life. We sat in the same pew on church every Sunday (until I became a self-important teenager and preferred to sit with my friends). When my parents needed a babysitter, we went to my grandparents’ house. Grandad’s and my birthday are within a week of each other, so we shared a birthday party, complete with matching cakes, every year until I moved away. My Grandad had the loudest sneeze and the best laugh, and he could fall asleep almost anywhere. It’s funny the memories that surface when it suddenly seems necessary to grab hold of every single detail you can remember about a person.
Grandad would let us have popcorn for a bedtime snack when we had cousin slumber parties. He had the best collection of pop-up books ever. He served Rotel dip in a bowl shaped like a head of lettuce, always with Fritos. He was never without a stash of ice cream sandwiches. He humored me the day I decided I was a stamp collector, giving me some from his desk. He used to tell stories about cramming all six of his kids (and himself!) in a Volkswagen Beetle. He didn’t own a pair of real shoes until he went to college at LSU. His favorite movie was “Six Days, Seven Nights.” He kept a Dolly Parton album in his den that I secretly loved. He had a singing yodeler on his tool bench in the garage. He claimed that the way to get the best Arby’s/Horsey sauce ratio on your roast beef sandwich is to take a bite, then squirt a bit of each from the packet into your mouth. He liked to stop at Stuckey’s on road trips. He wore a “This is my costume” t-shirt every year for Halloween. These are the kinds of little thoughts that keep sneaking into my head.
My favorite story about my grandfather in recent years is from my daughter’s birthday. The day she was born, Grandad was also in the hospital. My Dad printed a picture of her and took it to him there. Grandad showed that picture to everyone who came to his room, and he kissed Neely’s picture goodnight each night. When he finally got to meet her the following Christmas, he could not stop telling me that story. He loved kids. I’m glad that both of mine got to meet him.
Yesterday afternoon while grocery shopping, I picked up four apples. For some reason, this led Neely to assume that it is time for my parents to come visit for Aidan’s birthday (which isn’t until next month). I told her she might get to see them soon, though. I still wasn’t sure how many of us (or which of us) would be traveling for the funeral. I reminded her who my Granny and Grandad are, and how we visited them over Christmas break. I then told her that Grandad had died, so we would be going to his funeral service. She asked, “Why? Because he was old?” I told her, “Yes.” Next, she asked, “Is Grandad in heaven?” I said, “Yes, he gets to hang out with Jesus now.” Then, Neely says, “Good, then we’ll see him again.” The things this kid says never cease to amaze me.
It’s hard for me to focus on anything but being sad and missing my grandfather and trying to remember every last detail, because there will be no new details. My four-year-old, she’s smart enough to look ahead. I will get to see my Grandad again one day. But for now, I’m clinging to what I’ve got. I’m glad we were in Tennessee for Christmas, and that the last time I saw him, he was wearing the reindeer sweatshirt I made for him, and when it was time to say good-bye, I gave him a hug and a kiss and told him that I loved him. I’ll miss you, Grandad.