Another year has come and gone, my first year without getting to hold you again.
It has been a year. A whole freaking year. It feels like just yesterday, like just yesterday I was laying on an ice-cold hospital floor sleeping, or at least trying to sleep. Surrounded by my family, the family he helped create. I have walked miles that I have never walked. Miles I never dreamed of walking. Took roads I never thought I would have to take. And it seems out of it all, I have cried the most. The tears I have shed, I could make my river. You never think the last time will be the last. There have been several firsts. Even the slightest moment of eating Danish Wedding cookies for the first time alone. He was not just a man; he was a great man. And in this world now, a great man is hard to find. If you were not smiling, he would defiantly make sure you turned your frown upside down. Those hands were sure to tickle you if you would not smile for him. He was always full of delight, despite his own trials and tribulations.
He loved everyone, but he especially loved his grandkids. We each had something that made him proud. While the loud noises were not something he could handle for long periods of time. He enjoyed every moment of all of us grandkids. He enjoyed every moment of all his kids too. He loved and he loved to love. He was a hero, at least a hero in my family’s eyes. He served in the Navy and toured through Vietnam. Although I never heard all the old war stories, I know they were there. Picking at his brain 24/7, ripping it apart. The scariest thing was listening to him scream at night, knowing the pain he was in and knowing there is nothing to do for him. The nightmares that would eat away at him. You could never just wake him by tapping his shoulder, you had to start yelling his name as you walked through the door. Also, he was half deaf in one ear and could not hear out of the other. Laughter, that was the best medicine in our house. There was no way you could get out of a good laugh. Whether he was sick or in the best mood, he would always crack more than one joke. There was a paper that used to sit on our hutch, it was a list of jokes. Because as he always said, “as old age gets with me, I can’t remember the things I once did.” He wrote down some of his best jokes. I cannot remember one joke that wasn’t good. You could try not to laugh, but him laughing at his own joke was sure to make you laugh. And if you snorted while laughing… Well you better get some muscle cream for your cheeks because he always loved hearing me snort and of course my aunt too. As if it was a challenge for him to get you to laugh and to make you snort at the same time. Challenge accepted. And it would be achieved.
Fall was his favorite time of year, mostly because football. There was never a dull moment during football season. The TV was sure to be yelled at, especially if it was a Texas football team playing. It did not matter if it was College or NFL. He taught me how to cook and how to love cooking. It is an art in its own form, a passion. But most of all we loved eating what we would cook. He taught me that it’s okay to catch the iron skillet on fire, it truly does happen a lot. He taught me about books. While he wasn’t the only one who helped teach me how to read, he guided me on what to read. He was always there when I needed help with homework. He was a jack of all trades, and as he would say “a master of none.” He taught me about Jesus, how to love Jesus. How to walk in faith without fear of what may come of tomorrow. Everything happens for a reason. Jesus has a plan and has molded your life the way he clearly wants your life to work out. He was head to toe deep in religion. I’ve never told anyone this story, but a few weeks before this day one year ago. He explained to me how tired he was. How he didn’t know how much more he could take of pain. In that moment I think I knew this moment was coming. Hours before he left this world. He spoke to my brother and told him he was getting ready to go upstairs. Our family gathered in a hospital room together. We took pictures of our last moments together. We loved and laughed, despite all the differences and arguments we have had over the years. I know there was a woman waiting on him. A woman with open arms at the golden gates ready to hug her baby David. And I know there was a beautiful Golden Retriever waiting beside her. And I bet there was a mile-long line of others there too. And on Sunday morning just before church time, he joined the choir of heaven. Where his deep baritone voice would never get tired or weary. Where he was no longer bound to a wheelchair. The life on earth seems dull. It seems empty. It seems like the sun doesn’t shine the way it used to. But he is no longer in pain no longer hurting. And because of that, while the sun does not shine the way it used to it has a glistening gleam that my grandfather once carried in his smile.