Saturday, April 29, 2006

Remembering my Grandpa



It's been one week since my Grandpa passed away, so I think I will share some of my memories about him. To me he was a great man. He dropped out of school early on in his life, before the 8th grade, joined the navy and ended up fighting in World War II. He met my Grandmother while she was studying to become a nurse, to which my grandpa responded, "why would you want to be a nurse because if you were my wife you wouldn't work." Classic grandpa.

My grandpa was a farmer . He ended up farming for years. In fact, he was still farming 60 acres of land up until he was in his late 70's. He would wake up in the middle of the night to change his water, to make sure he didn't over water his crops. He did most of the work, minus the actual picking of the crops.

He was the central figure in our family. At Christmas time it was grandpa who would hand out the presents to all of the kids and adults. When grandpa was happy we were all happy, when he was sad or upset we all shared in his pain.

How did he effect my life? Well let's see, he introduced me to golf. I would remember going to visit him in the summer to play golf at the same golf course he played at. It was amazing and an honor. Now I am not shallow enough to realize other things my grandpa taught me; how to tie vines, how to flood gophers out of their holes (that had to be one of the more enjoyable summers ever.) We could spend hours on end talking about football too. Whether it was the 49ers and how crappy they had become, or how the Sooners fell apart. He also taught me how to be a man, how to treat a woman. How to act in certain situations. Now he never came out and said "Kevin, this is what you do", but he always acted in a certain way that would always be the right way. Now there were times that he didn't act the right way, but he would always say later on, how he should have acted.

My grandpa was a huge part of my life. I spent every vacation hour (minus 3 summers because of football) at my grandparents home. Every vacation we had a different job. He would always tell us, that he has to do it because he didn't finish school and this was his life. I guess that hit all of us grandkids because 6 of the 7 graduated from college. That idea that unless you get an education, you would be doing manual labor stuck with us.

My grandpa was diagnosed with lung cancer a few years ago. I guess we weren't surprised because he had been smoking since he was around 12 years old. He had surgery to remove the cancer from the lung. Doctors say that if you can go one year without the cancer coming back, then your odds are pretty good it will stay in remission. Well, with my grandpa it was around 10 or 11 months when the doctors told him the cancer was back. He had no choice but to try chemo-therapy. At his age it was risky, but he couldn't have another operation. He was able to go through all of the treatments, except the last one. Most of the cancer was gone or drastically reduced. I saw him in the middle of his treatments during Thanksgiving. He looked well, he was joking around and we made some bets on the Rose Bowl and Super Bowl, even though we didn't know the teams. We also gave my grandparents a Webtv. Now this might seem like nothing, but my grandparents never owned a VCR. He was excited and happy knowing he could write to any grandkid whenever or check the weather whenever he wanted to. I will never foget his face when he said "So you mean I'm online now?"

We didn't go up to see him at Christmas time because my wife was pregnant at the time and couldn't travel at all. At the time I didn't think it mattered because I figured I would see him next Christmas. During the spring time he battled some serious colds and that also took it's toll on his body. It was in early April during a phone conversation that he commented that his shoulder was hurting him. I told him to lift some weights because he needed to be strong enough to lift our little girl. He laughed and said that his is trying. During spring break my parents came down and said I needed to go see him because he was very ill. I thought it was just my mom being over reactive, but she wasn't. When I saw my grandpa he didn't recognize me because of the medication he was on and because cancer was spreading into his brain. That first day was very rough for me and my wife. After lunch my grandpa walked outside and my wife suggested I go on a walk with him. I was very hesitant to, but agreed to go. My grandpa and I walked about 30-50 yards and back. We talked about the weather (as all farmers do) and about the neighbor building a house. And then he went out and started talking about the war. As soon as he started it was over. I found out later that that was his last walk. The cancer spread to his spine and legs and he couldn't walk. That is something I hope to never forget. The next day he was better, alot better. He knew me and remembered things about conversations from earlier in the day and years ago. My wife and I always played Uno for him, he loved to see me lose. He was sitting in the chair, in pain, but smiling at us and said "I remember that game you guys play, Uni" We said good-bye that day, never in a million years did I think I wouldn't see him alive again. In less than a week, they stopped all treatment and the next Friday he was in hospice care... a total of 8 days. My heart ached for him, my grandma, and my family. We prayed for a quick death so he wouldn't suffer. He was able to leave the hospital and come home to his farm to die. His farm where he made his life and legacy. He died at 2:14 AM on April 23rd. I miss him so much. I am so sad when I think that he won't hold my daughter, hold me, or hold his wife again. I know he is in a better place without pain, but my heart misses him so much. I was honored to be a pallbearer at his funeral this past week. I cried and smiled thinking about the memories of him. My brothers and I shared stories of grandpa over his grave talking to him.

My grandpa saw alot in his life time and lived alot too. My grandpa was and will always be a hero to me. I love you Grandpa...you're online so you can read this now.

2 comments:

Janet Green said...

Thank you for sharing those beautiful memories of your grandfather. I'm impressed that you got through our workshops since he just passed away a week ago. My father died almost a year ago on Father's Day; I just buried his ashes in Iowa over spring break. I miss him every day. He was also a great man with a wonderful disposition and sense of humor, although he was in extreme pain from rheumatoid arthritis for the past 35 years. Like your grandpa, it was smoking that finally limited his circulation.
I am lucky that he was close to my son (who looks quite a bit like him).

Mr. Wendland said...

Thanks Janet. It was a rough weekend. I am lucky that I am close to most of the BTSA people. It helped get my mind off of the past week.

I am sorry to hear about your father as well. It is hard to let go isn't it?