This picture of Chloe and my grandpa was taken in March of 1998. I can only assume we were celebrating Mindy's birthday because of the date. That would make Chloe just over one year old and Gramps 76 years old in this picture. He lived to be 86; Chloe was ten years old when he died. He passed away four years ago today. So instead of celebrating his birthday every year, we now observe his death. Trips to the cemetery, red roses, extra hugs to Grandma, reminiscing and tears. And not to sound trite but I can even feel his presence. Granted, I am sleeping in his bedroom, in the very place he passed away and I do have an overactive imagination. And I may or may not have had to sleep with the lights on last night, Chloe and I holding on to each other terrified. Anyway, I digress.
In the 9 years that took place between the photo above and my grandfather's death, Chloe grew up and up, and up, Ady and Piper were born, some of us got married and some divorced, he and my grandma yelled at each other, Jazz games were watched, family reunions were attended, and he slowly aged. Life was life and it was [mostly] good. But when my grandpa's body stopped cooperating, he was done. He truly wanted to live life, and that didn't entail being hunched over in constant pain. He had reached his body's maximum capacity by living at full speed every day for 86 years. He was a hard worker, he fought in the Battle of the Bulge, he married his sweetheart and built a house and a farm, he raised sheep, he was an avid fisherman and hunter, he was a fire fighter, he golfed, he babysat grandkids and great-grandkids, he cooked and camped, he chased dogs and hid Easter eggs. And when his body's resources had been completely exhausted, he was ready to go. My grandpa wasn't the type of man to sit in a resthome and deteriorate. It would have been an anticlimactic ending to an extraordinary life.
And if I am being totally honest, it is my thought that he knew enough to get the hell out of here before things started getting completely crazy. I am not sure that his heart would have been able to take the trials we've endured over the last four years. I don't think he could watch my mom battle addiction and cancer, and I am certain he would be totally disgusted with the city council's inability to control zoning and development. I know we would have caused him grief by bad decisions in love and money, interventions and other rotating crises. And Grandma's new "creative" cooking? I don't know if even his veteran stomach could withstand. So although I miss him relentlessly, I am comforted knowing that he is out of pain and (hopefully) somewhere playing a round of golf and drinking coffee.
I love you, Gramps. I should have told you a thousand more times.