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My Grandfather Died Last Night, and I'm Feeling Some Kind of Way About It

Well, this wasn't the blog post I expected to write today. But death never quite comes when we're expecting it, does it?


My grandpa was 97 years old and had been in ailing health for the past few weeks, so it would be inaccurate to imply his death was "unexpected"... except. When someone has been around for so long, then of course it does still feel unexpected, even though I think we all knew this would be his final year. This weekend, I told my wife that I had probably seen my grandfather for the last time, because I didn't think we'd get a chance to visit again this year. And yeah, it turns out I was right. But that doesn't mean I was ready for it.


How do you even talk about loss when it's so fresh? I suppose I should talk about my feelings, but I truly don't know how I'm feeling. I feel sad, of course. Sad for my family, especially my grandmother and my father. I feel some relief that my grandpa's declining health no longer troubles him. I feel happy that he is now reunited with his siblings. I'm worried that my grandmother (96 years old) won't be around much longer, either.


And then there are the selfish parts of me. I think I already knew my grandfather would never get a chance to meet my child. And thankfully, my grandpa at least knew we were having a kid. I'm glad he knew. But I also really wish I'd been able to tell him in person. But due to schedule issues, I couldn't go see him when it was safe, and the next time I had a chance, I had COVID (and thankfully didn't visit). I'm still really angry that my day job kept me from that trip, especially because the reason I had to stay turned out to be pretty pointless. I would have much rather made that trip, and I can't get that time back now. But I'm also so glad this didn't happen while I was on either my honeymoon or my babymoon.


And even though I never really thought it would happen, I do wish my child had gotten a chance to meet my grandfather.


When people ask me how I'm doing, I honestly say, "I don't know."


My grandpa loved telling stories. I mean, he wasn't very good at it - he would tell a story, and then you'd reply and maybe tell a story of your own, and then once you were done, he'd pick up where he left off, because apparently he wasn't done, he was just taking a very long pause. So, he wasn't a great storyteller, but at least he was polite!


But he didn't have to be a great storyteller - he just loved stories.


But I don't think my grandfather loved fiction. He fell asleep whenever he watched movies or TV shows - he even took me to see "The Lion King" in 1994, and he slept through the fiery finale, I still have no idea how he did that. He never talked about the books he'd read or movies he'd seen, at least not by the time I came along.


But he loved people, and loved telling stories about them. Ancestors and distant relatives, friends from church, old school friends. One of his favorite stories to tell involved sitting down at an event that brought churches together from across the states, and somehow he'd accidentally sat down next to a cousin he'd never met. He also talked about Neals Christen (sp?), the first Christensen to come to the USA, who got a job digging holes and got fired on the first day. Also, somehow Neals' brother was also there, and already knew English? So, was Neals NOT the first member of our family to reach the US? Like I said, he wasn't always the best storyteller.


Or maybe I just wasn't the best listener. Maybe I should've asked more follow-up questions. Maybe I just didn't take proper advantage of the time I had with him. I don't know.


Grandpa served in World War II - and by that I mean, they took him to Hawaii, and he never got further than that; the war was almost over when he joined. When he first tried to join the army, he was rejected for having a bad heart, but he didn't think that was true. He tried again, and they said his heart was strong. The first time he tried to join the army, his chart had gotten mixed up with somebody else's.


For the rest of his life, for 80 years, my grandfather worried about the soldier with the bad heart, who had gotten approved when he shouldn't have, because his chart got mixed up with my grandfather's. He always hoped he didn't get that boy killed. And honestly, even though it's morbid... I think that's my favorite story about my grandpa. Because he was always worried about a man he never met, a man who he didn't wrong in any way. Because my grandfather just cared about people.


My grandpa had to quit being a farmer when his back gave out on him, so he went back to school - and that's where he met my grandma. And while most of us in the family have inherited his bad back, it was always a bit of comfort knowing that, if he hadn't had such a bad back, none of us in his family would be here today.


My grandpa sold flowers for most of his life. He didn't have a storefront, he wasn't a florist - I think he bulk sold them? I don't really know. He didn't really talk that much about his work. I don't think he ever considered that his job was the most important part of his life.


You can't paint a full picture of a man - any man - in a single blog post. You can't paint a full picture of a man from just his grandson's perspective - there are doubtless a dozen different ways to see him that I never got a chance to see. There are also probably several topics I might disagree with him about, and you can probably imagine some of them.


He was a quiet man. He would often just sit in his chair and listen, nodding along and saying, "Okay," so you knew he was listening. (And when his attention drifted, it wasn't hard to notice - and he was old enough that you never blamed him when his attention drifted.)


He was patient, way more patient than I've ever been. He was polite. He was kind. And at the end of a man's life, it's hard to imagine having a better legacy than that.


Rest in peace, Grandpa.



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