My grampa died last week. He was a difficult man in a lot of ways, but nonetheless, well-loved. It was slightly amazing to see just how many people showed up to pay their respects. Family, of course, but also people he worked with, people who shared his interest in antique tractors, and even people from his time as a Boy Scout Leader.
The three people who spoke at his service pretty well captured the real Maris Hall. He was a talented manager, able to run the power system for a small city for years. An even more skilled engineer, whether working on the electrical system for a Navy ship, restoring a rusted hulk to a showpiece of a tractor show, or hammering raw iron into a functional piece of camping gear. A very intelligent man, he always had an answer to any question. Usually, it was the right one. He didn't handle disagreement all that well, though, especially from his own loved ones. For the last year before his death, he and his one surviving son barely spoke, because Dad disagreed with his new plan to bring the grandchildren in to pick over his possessions prior to his death, then auction the rest. He asked Dad to visit him to discuss the change, but the decision had already been made - Dad was supposed to approve of it, not dare to point out the problems involved. I suspect Dad is going to have trouble dealing with that over the next few years...
It's probably a good thing Grampa didn't ask our opinion. I went because he told us it was important to him, and despite my own misgivings...and all OUR past disagreements...if it was important to him, it was important to me. It sort of made me feel like a vulture circling him, but it WAS his idea. I didn't discuss it with my cousins, but I did notice the sorts of things they selected - small things, things of sentimental importance, nothing of real value, just like me. In fact, one of them flew in, obviously with no intent to take anything that wouldn't fit in an already-full suitcase. I am pretty sure they were there for the same reason as me - the Old Man called, and we came. That's sort of important to me. It was good to see my cousins again, and even better to see that apparent understanding between us.
I still have a lot of unresolved feelings about my Grampa. He was a reactionary old conservative. We shared a bond through our military service, and I was proud beyond words to accept the flag symbolizing his service when it was removed from his coffin by fellow American Legionaires. But if he knew more details about my political views, he might very well have disowned me. He never really accepted my wife, even though she's made me a happy man for twenty years. But I've noticed over the last few years how many of my mannerisms and speech patterns are echoes of my father. This week it finally occurred to me to wonder how many of his traits are reflections of HIS father...and how many of mine I will pass down to my two boys. The Old Man is in me, and always will be, and it is somehow comforting to think that a little of him will continue to live on, even past my own death.
When I saw him in May, he seemed the same vital powerful man he had always been - maybe a little slower, and certainly a little more deaf, but still going strong. My dad tells me he was still that way practically up until two weeks ago, when he found he was sick. He lasted for a long time, then ended quickly and relatively painlessly. And I guess that's a good way to go. But I'll miss him. I love you, Grampa.