I said good bye to my Grandpa today. There have been a handful of times that I thought l was seeing him for the last time and then he rallied. This time though… Three weeks ago he was knocked over by the wind as he went to get the garbage can. (The same wind that knocked down my basketball stand 300 miles away.) He was taken to the hospital and when he was stable enough they moved him to a skilled nursing center near his home. Friday he pulled out his feeding tube for the 3rd time. He is not able to swallow and none of the care takers believe that his throat muscles will ever get strong enough to swallow on his own. He has a Do Not Resuscitate order and after heart wrenching talks my Grandma, mom and uncles decided not to put the tube back in. So today, when I left his bedside, it will likely be the last time I see him alive. He’s 90. He has had a good life. A very good life.
Grandpa was passionate about a few things. One was THE war. And by THE war, I mean WWII. It’s always been a bit of a family joke. DON’T ask grandpa about the war. Especially if you are about to leave and need to be somewhere soon. I believe there is something in every person’s life that impacts them so much that it sets the stage for the rest of their life. I believe THE war was that thing for grandpa. He arrived in Hawaii shortly after Pearl Harbor. He worked in the office so he had a unique perspective about everything that happened. Grandpa wouldn’t hesitate to tell you his perspective. In lengthy detail. He loved and respected everyone that he met there. They became a family. Grandpa would attend almost all of their reunions, and the way he talked about the people he met left no doubt that he considered them his brothers. Yesterday when I visited him with my sisters he was talking about a soldier friend he knew in the war. Even now THE war is with him.
Because of his close connection to THE war, Grandpa became passionate about Hawaii too. He is not in love with the sandy beaches that promise relaxation and tropical paradise like most of us are. He loves Hawaii, the place, the people, the culture, the flowers, the food. Growing up I loved eating macadamia nuts at grandpa’s house. They are salty and a little bit soft, and not as nutty tasting as other nuts. When they were covered in chocolate, well, needless to say us kids had to be restrained from too many of those! We listened to the ukulele and grandpa’s house. And we all learned to pluck out Aloha Oh! On the organ in the “home teachers room” using the color coded music books. Hawaii was as much a part of Grandpa as if he had grown up there. Which in many ways, he probably did.
The only other place that Grandpa would visit that might have come close to Hawaii for Grandpa was Disneyland. Long before Disneyland was a world wide entertainment giant, long before Disney was even a Florida sensation, Grandpa was there. I’ve seen pictures of my mom and her brothers as kids there. I’ve heard the stories of them driving out to California to go to Disneyland. Grandma and Grandpa even took me and my older brother there when we were in our early teens. They were taking a group of high school seniors on their senior class trip and we got to tag along. They have shared their love of Disneyland with all of us grand kids.
A passion for the gospel of Jesus Christ has always been a part of Grandpa’s life. I think though that one of the highlights of his life was when the Mt. Timpanogas temple was built. Grandpa worked there for 17 years! (I think that is the right number.) He went twice a week until just a while ago. A few years ago when Grandpa was in the hospital with cancer, he was worried, and mad because he was missing his shifts at the temple! It frustrated everyone that he was more worried about getting back to the temple than he was about the little things like eating and working on walking! Even today I was told that he was trying to get out of bed to say his prayers. Grandpa knows what he believes. He believes in the gospel of Jesus Christ!
More than Hawaii, or Disneyland or THE war even, Grandpa has a passion for Grandma. I remember Grandma telling me that Grandpa planted all of the rose bushes at their house so that he could bring her roses every day. Their house always had a vase of fresh roses. It smelled so good! Grandma and Grandpa have been married for 67 years!! (Pretty sure that’s right too.) In so many ways their marriage has been an amazing example. Not because it was the perfect marriage where they got along perfectly all the time, but because even through their struggles and imperfections they chose to stay together and they chose to love each other. When they got married all those years ago Grandpa was on a short leave from the war and he had to go back. He had to leave her home and go finish out his service. It’s hard to think of Grandma without Grandpa. But I think that in the same way that they started their life together, they will start the next chapter of their eternal life together. He is going to go ahead and plant some roses so that when it’s her turn to come she will have the ever familiar scent of fresh home grown roses to welcome her home.