Friday, January 16, 2009

Pasta Fazul

It's hard to lose a grandparent. I think that it's especially hard when you lose your last grandparent. There is something about one's childhood that is lost forever when that happens...a door sealed shut, or at least it brings the full realization that such days are long past.

Sometime on Wednesday evening, my grandfather, the last of my grandparents, passed away. It had been an anticipated thing, drawn out over the course of the day after a heart attack. But even when death is inevitable, even when you can see it coming and prepare for the phone call that is surely soon to come, I don't think that one can ever truly be ready.

The call came, and I wasn't. And one of the reasons for it was that he was the last of four loving, doting grandparents to go. Not everyone is able to tell that story, but I can, and it's a big part of the sadness that I've been feeling since I learned of his death.

I owe a lot to Grandpa. I owe a lot to both my father's parents. Grandpa started a mutual fund for me when I was something like 3 seconds old to ensure that I'd have no problem paying for college. My cousin and I spent huge chunks of every summer growing up at their house riding bikes, camping out in their yard, playing Transformers, and probably oblivious to how much patience they had at times with all of it.

Grandpa was a Michigan fan. Not only that, but he was a student for a couple years. He didn't graduate from there, but he always had pride in the time that he spent there. One of my lingering memories of this is walking through a store with him eyeing all of the Michigan apparel. I'd point out each item: "Look Grandpa! Michigan!" He'd play along: "Yeah! Great!" Then I'd spot a Michigan State shirt: "Look Grandpa! Michigan State, too!" His classic reply is forever etched in my memory: with a dismissive wave, he gave a much less enthusiastic "eh."

Maybe you're wondering about the title of this post. This was Grandpa's signature saying. It was his phrase to fill in the dull parts of conversation or as his own verbal punctuation mark at the end of whatever he last said. This was a classic line that the rest of us would lovingly work into our own speech around him just for fun.

The last time I saw Grandpa was for Coffeeson's baptism. By that time he'd been pretty well confined to a wheelchair and needed to be carried by two or three people up and down the steps. Coffeewife shared that her last memory of him--which is mine as well--is him sitting in his chair under the tree in our side yard with Coffeeson in his lap. The family has plenty of pictures of the four generations of Coffeefamily men...Grandpa was the only great-grandparent to meet Coffeeson, the significance of which I certainly treasure.

Grandpa was an incredible man of faith. He and Grandma were very dedicated to their church, a modestly-attended multi-cultural United Methodist church. They'd help at a local food pantry and lead worship at a nursing home nearly every week without fail. During a family trip to Maine on a Sunday morning, my grandparents broke into some of their favorite hymns in the van - their own worship service in lieu of a chance to stop at a nearby church.

There probably won't be any sort of memorial service until March. In the meantime, I've simply been giving thanks for all that he was - to me and to all who knew him.