You taught me how to fish. You taught me how to dig for worms, string the line, and how to cast my rod. You humored my belief that Fruit Loops were the best bait and when I caught my first foot long trout, you kept it in your deep freeze so that you could show it off for years to come.
You taught me the joys of baking. Apple muffins became our weekend tradition and the countless hours sifting cinnamon and nutmeg were filled with conversations and laughter. We greased countless muffin tins with Crisco and we always managed to eat more of the batter than we baked.
Loss is a relatively foreign concept in my life. My dearly beloved great grandmother passed away four years ago (I’m still holding out for that Vegas trip, Nana). Her passing was the first, and until this weekend, my only brush with death that I have experienced. A combination of healthy genes and the Mormon marriage/family time line has allowed five generations on both of my parents side to live together.
The grandfather that I knew and loved was a very different man than they one that my younger siblings grew up with. While I knew you as the man who would build a throne of rocks and boulders for me at the side of a lake, my siblings knew you as the grandfather who couldn’t leave his Lazy Boy chair. To me, you were the man who would drive three hours every weekend to spend time with your grandchildren, while to my younger siblings you were the grandfather who lived on the ground floor of their home. Although our experiences and relationships with you were vastly different, you were our grandfather all the same.
Age was not friendly to you. A combination of health issues, memory loss, and pain turned you into a very different man that I once knew. For two and a half years, my father, your youngest son, bathed and fed you and took you to your grandchildren’s sporting events. NBA games and John Wayne films were the highlight of your day and, despite being largely immobile, your sass and stubbornness still continued to move mountains.
You passed away on Mother’s Day. Your death was the only thing that could bring your estranged children together and, for the first time in over a decade, they were all together under one roof. August: Osage County is a fair representation of what that reunion will look like and I’m honestly glad that I’m on the other side of the country.
I was at the otter exhibit when I got the call that you had passed away. Surrounded by children and fresh from a bottomless brunch, I received that call that I had prepared myself for for two years. The tears came but, to be honest, I was happy for you. I was glad that you wouldn’t be in pain. I was glad that you wouldn’t wake up again in the middle of the night and beg to be taken back to your home in Arizona that you built and had spent over 50 years in. I was glad that you were finally at peace, and that whatever and wherever you may be on the other side, that you were with your son who passed away decades ago.
You taught me how to spot and cook a crawdad. You taught me how to ride a horse and how to saddle up. You taught me how to stucco a barn and how to shovel hay. While these aren’t life lessons I use regularly, you are intrinsically tied to so many of my childhood memories. Northern Arizona will forever be associated with you and whenever I pass over a cattle guard, I still get that same giddy feeling I had when we would drive up to your house.
I won’t make it to your funeral and I won’t be at your services. I wasn’t there to say goodbye to you but I want you to know that I won’t ever forget you. I won’t forget the love and sparkle that you had for wife after 57 years of marriage. I won’t forget your ability to painlessly remove a fishhook from my hand. I won’t forget how your mugs of half diet coke and half mountain dew were my favorite drink growing up. I won’t forget how much I’ve missed you.
Here’s to you.