Finding a Finale 4

GpaWe buried my Grandpa this week.

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.

4 thoughts on “Finding a Finale

  1. Reply Kerry Aug 9,2015 3:17 am

    What a beautiful tribute to your grandpa! We’re so lucky to have your writing talent on The Soul Spa.

  2. Reply Christina Howell Aug 17,2015 5:21 am

    Hi Kari,

    We love your column! Often, we sit around the table while one of the family members reads your work aloud. 🙂

    While reading your tarantula piece, I couldn’t help but think of our son’s pet tarantula….. He, too, couldn’t “live without” a pet spider and we allowed him to get one. By the way, this was soon after he couldn’t “live without” a pet python. I didn’t mind the snake much, it didn’t make the hair stand up on my arms. Well, a few months went by with my carefully avoiding my son’s room (oh, I never thought of THIS before: He got a pet spider, so I wouldn’t inspect his room for cleanliness! Clever.) Anyway, one day he came to me to make a horrifying confession: He had not seen his baby tarantula for some time, now….. Armed with my husband’s heavyweight hiking boots, I followed him to his room, treading carefully around socks and other clothes that had probably been lying there since the day the spider moved in. After thoroughly inspecting the lid of the terrarium and finding nothing wrong with it, we peered into the terrarium for a long while, searching for the creepy thing. To no avail–that spider was nowhere in sight. I turned and looked at my so. I must have looked pretty scary because he visibly withered before my eyes. I was angry. He looked through the glass again and spotted what he obviously thought would work great for an explanation. “See that?” he asked. “What is it?” I answered. “It’s a little hole in the sand and I bet he is just hiding down in the sand….” He sounded quite convincing, especially to someone who has always stayed clear of all National Geographic magazines with pictures of arachnids on the cover and information about them on the inside. I asked my son to probe down into the little hole, but he said he didn’t want to take the chance of hurting his little pet spider. Yeah, I could understand that, myself never having hurt a spider…. He assured me that surely the tarantula was down there and would “soon” resurface. Well, he didn’t. In fact, when my son moved out of town a couple of months later, he supposedly left a spider behind that was “in a very deep hibernation.” Only, that was not so.

    One day, while cleaning out a closet in the basement, I spotted a spider on steroids. I immediately suspected this to be my son’s darling pet. He had grown a great deal, since we had lost seen him! I was the only one home at the time and I mustered all of my courage to capture the thing. After all, if I didn’t take care of this myself right then and there, it would disappear anew, not be found again until it had reached full maturity. Long story medium, I caught him and returned him. Although, I had a hard time deciding whether I should return him to his rightful owner or directly to his Maker…..

    If you write a story about pet snakes, Kari, I will tell you about our adventure with “Steve, the Ball Python.”

    Keep writing! We love reading it! 🙂

    • Reply Kari Rich Sep 1,2015 3:29 am

      OMGsh, the escaped spider would have pushed me over the edge! You are so brave. Thank you for your kind words and for following my writing. I’m glad to know people enjoy it. 🙂

  3. Reply Christina Howell Aug 17,2015 5:25 am

    Sorry about the typos….

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