In many ways, I didn't know Grandpa that well. It's not that I didn't enjoy being around him or anything like that.....it's more that we Hunts have a tendency to keep things to ourselves.
I mean, I knew Grandpa loved hunting, sports, working in the garden, king pedro, the occasional rye and coke, cribbage and he could wear the shit out of a paper Christmas crown. I just didn't know a whole lot about him. What made him tick.
For example, I know he served in World War 2, but I have no idea what capacity he served, where he served, etc. It was one of those things he never talked about. And there were a lot of things us Hunts don't talk about. We don't handle emotional stuff well and I'm pretty sure bringing up the war would bring up emotional stuff that Grandpa would prefer not to deal with.
I also know he was a stubborn sonofabitch. Most old timers are. Grandpa had his way about doing things and didn't stray too far from it. At least that's what I gather from the stories I'd hear from Dad about growing up.
I remember numerous years ago Grandpa had some health issues and I think most of us, himself included, figured he was reaching the end of the line. That Christmas we all got some pretty big cheques and it seemed like he was handing out one last gift to us before punching his card. But that was several years ago........the next few Christmases had a significantly smaller cheque. And then there were more health problems. And we figured his card was going to get punched. And he kept plugging along for damn near ten more years. Like I said, the man was a stubborn sonofabitch!
Anyways, I've spent the week laid up on the couch, sick, and earlier in the week I was watching some program and one of the characters was overtly optimistic about everything, despite how poorly things were going in his life. When confronted about his optimism he mentioned its important to stay positive so you can try and pull out any of the silver linings from your terrible situation, otherwise they will pass you by. I thought it was pretty terrible and tacky and was willing to present an argument against such an outlook on life, but for some reason I kept thinking about that line all week.
Then yesterday morning I got a call that Grandpa was not doing well at all and they figured this was going to be the last hurrah. In many ways, it was time. Grandpa had a good run. He was 90ish and had spent the last couple years slipping into poorer and poorer health. And one of the things that had been going for awhile was his memory and mind, which is always a struggle for family members. Grandma suffered from Alzheimer's when I was much younger and it's not easy.
Anyways, I spent a lot of the day thinking about Grandpa. Remembering good times like hunting in Reston, playing hockey in his drive way or basement, watching Hockey The Lighter Side over and over again at his place as it was the only thing resembling children's programming in his VHS collection. I remember Grandpa would drive out to Kirkella, which was like a 4 hour drive the one way, just to watch me play hockey. He loved watching his grandchildren play sports and when you'd talk to him about sports, he'd be sure to remind you how to play the game properly.
Then I started thinking about recent years, as Grandpa's health deteriorated. I didn't visit him too many times in the hospital/nursing home over the last couple years, I think mainly because of how much I struggled visiting Grandma when she was dealing with Alzheimer's. I probably selfishly preferred to have my older memories of Grandpa. However, the last couple months I ended up visiting him several times and was quite glad I got the opportunity to do so. And then I got to thinking about that stupid silver linings quote from the other day......and was reminded of the following:
About a year and a half ago or two years ago I was out in Treherne and Dad decided to go in Sunday morning and pick up Grandpa and bring him out for the day, with the idea I'd take him back when I went back to the city. Grandpa was in much better physical health then, but his mind was going. Driving back, Grandpa completely forgot who I was within 5 minutes and didn't recognize me the rest of the trip. But as we drove past Starbuck he turned to me and said "This here is the town where I met my wife." Grandpa then started talking about Grandma and remembering a bunch of things about her. And I think because I was a stranger to Grandpa since he no longer recognized me, there was no longer this emotional wall built up between us. And so I took the opportunity to ask Grandpa about his wife, how they met and all these other things. And Grandpa opened right up and spent the rest of the ride talking about her. It was amazing.
After that experience, I felt like I got to learn a bit more about Grandpa and what made him tick. For one thing, I have no doubt he loved Grandma deeply. He had no idea who I was, but he could remember details about meeting her like it was yesterday.
I'm pretty sure what drove Grandpa was his love for the people around him. He may not have always been the best at communicating this, but when I look back I think this is true. He tried to do what he thought was best for them, even if they didn't quite understand it or like it at the time.
So, in many ways, this little experience where I got to learn a bit more about Grandma and Grandpa's obvious love for her was one of the silver linings of his illness. And for that I will be forever grateful.
RIP, Grandpa Ted.