old blankets and vacations

my grandfather is sick.

well, sick isn’t the right word.  he is shutting down.  after nearly 90 years on the planet, his earth suit is getting ready to shed it’s mortal coil.  after a series of physical complications and surgeries, it’s been determined by the doctors [and my grandfather, as well] that he’ll be gone within a few days.

this wasn’t news that was unexpected.  his health has been failing since he moved down from mariposa a few years ago.  honestly, i think the loss of his independence and not being able to work with his hands was the force that set the dominos in motion.  my grandfather has always been a man with strong hands.  a creator.  a builder.  an artist.  taking away the ability to use those ‘tools’ is like removing someone’s identity.

my grandfather is a man’s man.  born and raised with a hard work ethic and having survived typhoons in guam during wwii, he’s a hearty guy.  rough and tumble, calloused hands and a gravely voice; think john wayne and audie murphy rolled into a loveable figure that would love nothing better than to make you pee your pants from tickle attacks.

he was the sole male figure in a house with a wife and five daughters.  constantly reinforcing his link to masculinity, he and the girls would often head into the sierras and would over the years spend quite a deal of time in the yosemite area.  from my earliest recollections, grandpa had a house in the mountains.  grandpa, himself, built a beautiful full-log cabin in june lake, ca.  this was the birth-place of my love for the outdoors.  the odd weekend, thanksgiving, christmas, summer vacation, almost every free moment was spent up at the cabin with variety of relatives; aunts, uncles, cousins and the variety of extended family were the usual characters in the chaos of laughter that filled that cabin.  grandpa took us fishing, showed us how to chop wood, taught us how to tend the fire in the wood-burning stove and passed on his love of the mountains to us.

as far back as i can remember, too, grandpa had a hobby of working with wood.  he would collect burls and wood scraps from all of his travels and turn the most beautiful bowls, make the most amazing jewelry boxes and surprise the family with a collection of hand made gifts every christmas; cabinetry for the bathroom, pig shaped cutting boards, rocking horses.  his workshop was a place of refuge for him and a place to create and display his skill.  each visit started out with a trip to the shop to see what his latest project was and to listen to him sing the praises of this friend that sent him this chunk of cherry or this road-side cafe that gifted him this maple burl.

grandpa’s steadfast faith was something to marvel.  his grasp of scripture and it’s application to daily life was inspiring.  he lived a christ-like life without apologies.  grace was a concept that he understood well and applied to every relationship he stepped into.  not to say that he was hard-headed and dogmatic but instead, with a self proclaimed favorite verse like this, you had to see the humor that ran through his veins:

Let her be as the loving hind and pleasant roe; let her breasts satisfy thee at all times; and be thou ravished always with her love.

- Proverbs 5:19

all of this to say that i have the utmost respect for this man.  the example he set with his wife, family and friends is one that had a profound impact on how i turned out today. 

saturday ended up being a day to thank him for these things, tell him how proud i am to call him my grandfather, to share with him how i have been passing on his love of the outdoors to my son and in general, say goodbye.  when he does pass, it will be my pleasure to celebrate what an amazing man he is.

as we drove to the hospital on saturday with my sister [the kurd] and her two kids, her oldest [jumpingjehosephathead] started this dialogue:

“uncle jeff, how did grandpa get sick?”

“well, he’s not really sick, he’s just getting old.  when you get really old, your body just sorta gets worn out and starts to shut down.  it’s like when you have a toy that you play with for a long time, it’ll eventually stop working and break.”

“kinda like my blanket?  it’s getting old now and it has lots of holes in it.”

“yup, grandpa is a lot like your old blanket.  he’s just getting old and worn out now.”

“i don’t want to get old.”

“oh, but getting old isn’t a bad thing!  look at all the amazing things that grandpa has had the chance to experience!  he has raised five daughters, all of us grandkids and all of you great grandchildren.  look at all of the things he’s done, places he’s gone and things he’s made.  if he didn’t grow old, he would have never done those things.  just like if you never grow old, you won’t have kids and grandkids and you would miss out on all that life has to offer.  it’s just that grandpa is finished up here on earth and it’s time for him to go home to be with god.”

“oh, so you mean heaven is his REAL home?”


“so, then, this has been like a VACATION for him?”

“yes, sweetie, it’s been just like a vacation.”

isn’t it just like the wisdom of a child to really put it in perspective?  a child that is evidence of the legacy that my grandfather leaves behind.

soundtrack for this post
The Abattoir Blues Tour lick:
Let The Bells Ring (Lausanne)
Nick Cave & the Bad Seeds
The Abattoir Blues Tour

20 thoughts on “old blankets and vacations

  1. We aren’t quite at that stage yet with my grandparents, but it is close and I can see it coming.
    Big hugs to you and the family.

  2. We almost lost my gram last spring, and every day since has been a gift. I’m so happy for you, that you’re able to honor him the way he deserves. Somehow, it does help. Big hugs.

  3. This world is not my home
    I’m just a-passing through
    if I’m not heaven-bound,
    well lord, what will I do
    the angels welcome me
    from heaven’s open shore
    and I won’t be at home
    in this world any more.

  4. In an odd way, doesn’t the whole thing sort of make you look forward? One day, we’ll all aspire to be the fantastic grandparents that we knew and loved in our youth.

  5. Vacation! I love it.

    Working with the elderly has changed my entire perspective on death and dying. I am so honored to help people “go home,” and while I’m always sad (for me, their family)…I’m also always really, really happy for them. Especially when they’ve left a legacy like your grandfather. Blessings to you, Jeff.

  6. This is a wonderfully written post Jeff. I feel like know your grandfather for years, just from reading this.

    My thoughts are with you.

  7. He sounds more like a lion than a kitten. What a lovely tribute.

    (I’m at the water park right now and I’m going to go on the big slide just for him – but the wedgie will be just for you)

  8. Wow, Jeff, between you and Kaylie, … well, all I can say is WOW. You have a way of remembering and saying things that is inspiring. Thank you!

  9. There are no words. You and your sisters have been so richly blessed with an amazing family. This is the perfect tribute to an excellent life. Well done, Jeff.

  10. Great thoughts about Grandpa!! thanks for sharing at the funeral…I had so many things to say but there was no way I could same them…not yet, too raw. Thanks again and it was great catching up with you

Leave a Reply