My grandpa died last Thursday, July 12th. My parents, sisters, and the Mister and I were all there as he slipped away. We held his hand, praying and singing, as his heartbeat slowed and his breathing became shallow. His passing was beautiful, loving, peaceful, and painful all at the same time. It was such a privilege to be there and know that he wasn't alone; he was with people who loved him.
At his funeral service yesterday the minister told all of us to collect stories about him from the other people who had come to pay their respects. I didn't do this with as much focus as I should have, because I didn't feel like I had the emotional reserves to keep myself together, but I did hear some good tidbits.
Everyone talked about how kind he was. How generous he was. About the twinkle in his eye. He took a second job so my mom and uncle would have some of the "luxuries" like a special gift at Christmas. He was instrumental in getting cabins built for a camp up in the mountains. He drove for Meals on Wheels. He drove a local pastor to and from his doctor's appointments when the pastor's MS got too bad. He did numerous odd jobs around our house, building the fence, constructing steps next to our steep driveway, and fixing anything mom needed taken care of.
All of my friends adored him. People I haven't seen in five or six years still ask about him. Another uncle (related by marriage) remembers traveling through Colorado in the early 70s and staying with Grandma and Grandpa. Their car broke down while they were there, so Grandpa loaned them his beloved baby blue Bronco so they could explore the mountains while their car was being repaired.
We heard a lot about that Bronco. My fondest memories of childhood involve riding in it to go on some grand adventure. He loved to go four-wheeling. He loved towing the trailer on the back and going "camping". My mom's uncle said that he was always confident they could get that trailer through some of the most impossible terrain. Mom remembers several times when Grandma got too nervous and she would get out and walk while Grandpa took that Bronco to its limits. We all loved to hear Grandma squeal his name when we'd go around a corner and see what we were going to attempt next. I think I still have dents in my knee from Grandma's grip.
During the course of his career, Grandpa was a school bus driver, mechanic, and Director of Transportation for the school district. Several of the women who came yesterday were former bus drivers. I was surprised to see so many women and mom said Grandpa found them to be better drivers. He especially liked to hire farmer's wives because they were familiar with heavy equipment and knew how to handle the buses. He took pride in his work.
When I married my husband I think I also married, in some ways, my grandpa. They have similar personalities. Their walk is identical. They are strict about attention to detail and doing things right. They think before they speak.
He golfed. He fished. He walked every day until the Parkinsons took that away. He climbed Mt. St. Helens when he was almost 70 years old. He loved pecan sticky buns, Dairy Queen, and Jim Beam. He loved me.
I miss my Gamba.