Grandma is Gone

“Grandma is gone”

That’s what the text said anyway. Truth be told, she had been gone at least a little while. And on the slow, sad road longer than that. A few years ago, or maybe it was more, I really don’t remember, she was in the hospital and as I walk in to her room she greets me, “Hello Nick-a-roo.”

That is the last time I remember her remembering me. Man, I hope I never get Alzheimer’s.

Grandma and Grandpa always lived nearby when I was a kid. My brother and I spent a lot of time there. The first house I remember was a ranch with a basement. I don’t know what the reality was, but I remember the basement being filled with electronics that my grandpa would work on.

Then they moved to an apartment with a pool. Hanging out at the pool with the two of them was a lot of fun.

The back room of that apartment was the tv room. Also in that room was a roll top desk that housed a Commodore 64. “The Train: Escape to Normandy” had to be my favorite game. Never could finish it though. It always got stuck on a bridge and then you would have to restart. That didn’t stop us from playing again and again thinking that the next time would be the time you would make it past.

From there they moved to a condo around the corner from where we lived. I must have walked over there a thousand times. Going over to play games on the computer, watch tv, eat some junk food and drink pop, or to help clean. My brother started helping Grandma first and when he moved on to a real job I took over. There aren’t many jobs better than cleaning for your grandma, eating brownies, talking to your grandpa, and getting paid to do it. Not to say I didn’t try to do the best job possible. I wanted the vacuum lines in the carpet to be perfect and the bathroom sink to be spotless.

Through the years we took a trip to Disney World and Panama City Beach. Ate at Bill Knapp’s for birthdays. Had fantastic Christmas after fantastic Christmas. Spent time at the campground in their little camper. Went to Ray’s Barber Shop for haircuts. Went to the library. Played a lot of golf with Grandpa. Grandpa had bypass surgery in there too. Somehow he ended up with a t-shirt out of the surgery and recovery. The most expensive t-shirt he ever bought he told me.

Grandma always took us shopping for school. I remember asking for a pair of Nike Airs one year. I didn’t get them, “they are just a fad,” she said. That didn’t quite turn out to be true, but I always had good clothes and nice shoes on my feet, even if they weren’t Airs.

Those are memories I’ll treasure forever.

By the time you realize your grandparents have an interesting story to tell it’s often too late to hear that story. I wish I would have asked her more about growing up in the 30s. About her experiences in the 40s. Stories about meeting my grandpa. Stories about raising my mom and uncle. As I get older my favorite part of talking to people is hearing their stories.

Grandma would always get emotional when she would talk about her family. She was one of seven children. One of her brothers was two years older than her. I don’t know if he enlisted or was drafted into the Army. Regardless, in January 1945 he was in the Philippines and on January 27th he was killed in action.

The first letter home from a commanding officer, addressed to their mother, says, “in the face of machine gun fire from dug in Japanese tanks and gun positions, your son was killed instantly by a burst of this machine gun fire.”

The next letter states, “At that time Pfc Lindsay was instantly killed by a mortar shell that fell close by.”

Either way, her brother was dead. By May her mother was dead. And in January 1949 her father died. In the span of four years she lost one of her brothers and both of her parents.

I’m not sure Grandma ever got over losing her brother.

Grandpa grew up in Kentucky. I’m not sure when he ended up in Ohio. I think I know even less about his story. He was a chemist at the steel mill. He was in the Navy when he and Grandma got married.

In late 1995 we found out that Grandpa was sick. By June he was gone. Gone to leukemia. He had not yet reached 70. He bought me and my brother a Nintendo and a little tv one Christmas. He took us to Reds games. He was funny, patient, kind, quiet, and smart. I still miss him terribly. He was, unquestionably, one of my favorite people ever.

Just thinking of Grandpa now I still get a little misty eyed. I think of walking backwards to the pool. I think of a rainy night in Cincinnati when we went to the Reds game. I can picture being in his Oldsmobile driving on I-75 listening listening to Marty and Joe doing the post game show with lightning all around. When he was sick I remember he scratched himself on something and seemed to be bleeding a lot. I asked if he was okay. I was worried. He kind of chuckled and smiled. Looking back it was the smile of someone that knew he was near the end.

It’s funny the things we remember about significant events in our lives. It was a hot day when Grandpa was buried. I distinctly remember being uncomfortable wearing a tie with a short-sleeved shirt. I sat close to my two younger cousins during the service. The older of the two said, “Grandpa is in heaven now.” The younger one replied, “I think Grandpa is in that box.”

Five years after Grandpa died Grandma remarried. A retired Marine, my step-grandfather is one of the finest men I’ve ever known. At first they lived in a house in a retirement center. Eventually that got to be too much and they moved into an apartment in the nursing home. He is still there, but as Grandma’s condition worsened she moved to a room where she could get more care. It would have been easy at the end to give up on her, but he would shuffle with his walker down the long hall at the nursing home from his apartment to see her.

Grandma has been gone just over a month now. I feel like this has a sadder tone to it than I wanted. It’s not meant to be sad. I just wanted to take a few minutes and write a little. It’s hard to imagine my life without the kindness and generosity of my grandma. I am thankful I was able to spend as much time with Grandma and Grandpa as I did. I will be forever grateful for both of my grandparents that have passed, my step-grandpa, and (I’m very fortunate) my other two grandparents that are still living. They have had an impact on my life that I cannot put into words.

Nick Howard avatar
About Nick Howard
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