My grandfather died this weekend. He would have been 95 come this October. He was a veteran of two wars, a teacher, and an engineer. He was one of the smartest people I’ll ever know. He was also one of the most stubborn, but that tends to come with the territory. Over the last few years, he had been suffering from Alzheimer’s, which has been slowly chipping away at him. It was difficult for the family, of course, but it was also difficult for him, as little by little, his ability to do things independently slipped from his grasp.
Granddad was a do-er, you see. He liked to do everything himself. This included building the house he and my Grandmother were living in, which after 50 years, is finally being completed by his children and grandchildren. He moved at his own pace, which was often too slow for the rest of his family (a decade ago, his then thirty-year-old avocado green refrigerator stopped working. He refused to allow a replacement to be bought and spent the better part of a year fixing it, much to my Grandmother’s chagrin), but I think he got a certain degree of amusement out of that. He liked making people adhere to his plan, no matter how ridiculous or backwards it might seem.
As stubborn and belligerent as he could be, he was also incredibly thoughtful when he put his mind to it. It was still always via his own idiosyncrasies, of course, but that was him. For about 20 years, he religiously recorded thousands of TV programs onto VHS (only on the main network channels, of course, since he was far too stubborn to ever get around to getting cable). At some point, I’m certain every family member got at least one tape from him, containing any number of shows he thought they’d be interested in. In my case, it was almost always full of cartoons, because that was my speed, but I also have a copy of the ‘90s tv-movie Generation X because some network was showing it late one night, and he knew I liked the X-Men. It was the little stuff.
I know most of my life stories tend to revolve around action figures in some way. My Grandmother tended to be the one who followed all of my action figure stuff, but Granddad wasn’t completely out of the loop (although I do recall one time getting frustrated with him for mistaking Dragon Man’s wings for a Batman cape. In my defense, I was about 7 at the time.) One story in particular has always stuck out to me.
When I was about four, I’d often spend the day at my grandparents’ house. My dad pulled out his old Megos for me to play with. One day, while playing with them, poor Superman’s internal band snapped, and he fell all to pieces. I was quite distraught, but Granddad stepped in an assured me it would be alright. He sat me down at the dining room table and, being the engineer that he was, he drew up several diagrams of just how we were going to fix that figure. While it was my dad that ultimately fixed the figure (like I said, Granddad moved at his own pace), it’s something that’s always stuck out to me. That was his defining moment in my life. Not because it was about a toy, but because he took the time to not only make me feel better, but also to give me the knowledge of how to solve the problem on my own. And that meant a lot.
Thank you for everything, Granddad. I love you, and I will miss you very much.