goodbye Jack

I originally wrote this in 2006 after a brief visit with my grandfather. He passed away yesterday and I wish him a good journey. It's difficult when those close to you die. But death is probably the only real absolute in life and a natural state. I am sad that I cannot be with my family at this time. I hope the rest of you out there are faring well and living the lives you dream of living. Love you Gramps.

My grandfather is 88. He taught me how to ride a bike. I remember that quite well actually. It was in first grade, and he’d got me a used yellow Schwinn Crate look-a-like with ape hangers and banana seat. At the parking lot of the church across the street from his house he would steady me and then let me go. One day I rode straight up a big oak tree and came crashing down out of it boughs. It was a funny day to be a grandfather.

He has a hell of a legacy too. A few years back, I’m not sure maybe four or five; we went to an alumni ceremony at his college. As I walked down the corridors designed by Frank Lloyd Wright I thought about myself. Then the orator turned to my grandfather and began to list off his accomplishments. From serving in the Navy as captain in the Korean war, to a succesful legal career, to his service in the courts as an appointed judge, and finally to his many years of devoted community service, I stood in awe of a body of work which I could only hope to achieve. I’d lived my life in the last two decades of the 20th century in complete comfort. He’d lived through great poverty in the depression, been to war, fought in the courts to save a man from capital punishment, raised four children, championed causes for youths at risk, and all with a smile and a lack of arrogance to be admired.

He is not a selfish man but he is stern. As long as I can remember he would wake up in the morning and go for his run. He never drank more than a Cuba Libre in the evening and never smoked, his dress, always clean and unassuming. The only thing he wouldn’t share with me was golf. It was his thing, his time to be free. He has a hole-in-one trophy. How in the hell someone can get a hole in one is still a mystery to me. But golf was the only thing he kept to himself, to share with his close friends and peers. And now as I sit with him in the living room I again think about myself. About how I will miss him, about all the things he’s done for me. It’s as if his selflessness never rubbed off on me. I feel sorry that he can’t really engage in conversation, I feel sorry that I can’t be around more than just a few days, and I feel sorry that I didn’t ask him more questions. But I am grateful, for he gave us much.


colleen said...

So sorry to hear about your grandfather. He sounds like a true role model; what a gift to have him in your life. It is hard to be far away from family, especially in times like these. Thanks for the reminder to live life to the fullest, it is easy to take it for granted sometimes. Peace.

Anonymous said...

My greatest sympathy goes out to you as you sit and remember him ,if you need to talk or surf just call . Cheers Corky

Marina said...

Thanks for the repost Rick. Some of my favorite memories include going to the club for a swim and then going to DQ for a banana split. I was also just remembering trying to record his snore as he slept on the couch. Gramps, you'll be missed.


Patch said...

Lo siento hermano.

Anonymous said...

All the best brother. He must have been the one who sent those great waves our way yesterday.

Give my best to the family.


nm said...

I was going to leave a "sorry for your loss", but...

As I was reading your post...I kept seeing the pic of your dog out of the corner of my eye. The expression on his(?) face...caught me off-guard. It seems to be... Knowing. Approving. As if he was your grandfather.

Strange....I know. (I'm loony.)

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing R. My thoughts to you and your family as you grieve and celebrate Jack's life. He is an inspiration!

Mick said...

Ras, as you say death is a natural state and clearly his was a life well lived. Also, knowing you now as I do, the chip's off his wonderful old block live on.
Be sad, but be proud mate. You're his grandson.
A toast to him tonight.