He was 91 years old and my last living grandparent. How lucky am I to have enjoyed grandparents into middle age?
You’re never too old to need your grandpa or grandma.
Grandpa “B,” as we affectionately called him, was a man of meek demeanor and few words. That’s mainly because Grandma talked enough for them both, but he loved it. He adored her and was more than happy to give her the limelight, which she couldn’t help but have in her bright red wardrobe and matching lipstick, which framed a constant smile and lively commentary.
The last image I have of them together is Grandpa sitting on a couch as close to Grandma’s wheelchair as he could get, holding her hand as tears streamed down his face while admiring the fragile but sincere smile she gave back to him. Grandma died a few weeks later, just after celebrating their 70th wedding anniversary.
With such a tender final memory of Grandma, I longed for something comparable of Grandpa when we learned his days were numbered. He’d recently been moved from his home over the mountain to a care center in Cache Valley. While I was sad he had to submit to the limitations of age and advancing illness after ninety years of independence, I was glad to have him closer so I could visit more often during his last days.
I stopped by one afternoon to see him. He was asleep and I didn’t want to wake him, so I sat by his bed and let my mind play a memory montage…
Roasting marshmallows with cousins over the bonfire Grandpa made for us every spring after tree pruning. Sitting next to him on the couch as he laughed violently yet silently while watching The Muppet Show. Riding his horses and the swing he made behind the house. Eating the homemade ice cream, cakes doused with frosting, and Jell-o salads he made. Listening to him tell a story until Grandma would take over to tell it…
Grandpa woke up just as the reel ended. It was difficult for him to hear or talk so I just held his hand and smiled at him.
A nurse came in and tried to convince him to eat in order to have something on his stomach to buffer a dose of meds, but he refused. I remembered my mom telling me he loved vanilla shakes so I told Grandpa I’d be right back with one. His eyes lit up. I returned with the anecdote and spoon-fed it to him.
I didn’t know it then, but a satisfied smile on his face and a dribble of ice cream down his chin would be my last memory of Grandpa.
If you recall, I’ve explained how my final request is to eat a vanilla shake (with the addition of generous scoops of Oreo chunks), so it was befitting I could provide my Grandpa with a simpatico indulgence.
Just minutes after he passed, my mom called to see if I wanted to hurry over and say a final good-bye. I told her I already had. My memory montage had a grand finale.
Good-bye, Grandpa. See you on the flip side.
I’ll bring shakes.