My Grandpa passed away a couple weeks ago.
I'd feel like a hypocrite if I said anything other than the truth, and the truth was that he was not an easy man. He and I had a pretty big falling out a few years back, but not long after, I called him to offer a genuine apology, without any expectation of him apologizing (and it's a good thing I didn't have that expectation because he didn't apologize), and felt like I needed to share with him the best memories I had of him as a kid:
1. Every year, right before basketball season, he'd mail me a brand new pair of white, leather Nike's and a bottle of white shoe polish to keep them looking scuff- free. All the kids at school called me "rich" and "spoiled" when I was sporting those Nikes and for a girl who grew up in a mobile home without much money, I loved how my grandpa made me feel "rich" and "spoiled."
2. Whenever I stayed the night with my grandparents (sometimes I stayed and entire summer with them), my Grandpa would make me a chocolate milkshake at exactly 9:00 p.m. One night he decided to experiment with an orange milkshake per my insistence, but after taste testing it, he dumped the whole thing down the sink, and immediately whipped me up a tried-and-true chocolate milkshake instead.
3. When I lost the halter for my 4-H steer, Teddy, I received a brand new one in the mail with a poem from my Grandpa. I don't remember the entire poem, but I do remember part of it that read, "And here's a new halter, so Teddy won't falter."
4. No matter how fancy of a restaurant we went to, I always wanted the exact same thing; a hamburger with mayonnaise, mustard, pickles, and cheese. And if that wasn't on the menu, and the waiter didn't agree to have one special-made for me, my grandpa would ask to speak with the manager. Never once did I go without a hamburger.
5. He signed me up for summer camp (the first and only time I was ever signed up for summer camp), but after inspecting the sleeping arrangements and noticing pee stains on the mattresses, he refused to let me stay. I was devastated, but he promised to make it up to me, and instead took me to Zimm's hot springs for a day of swimming (oddly enough, we ended up at the same hot springs on our last Spring Break, and it wasn't until we had been there for awhile that I said to Josh, "I think this is where my Grandpa took me the summer before 5th grade - you can see those photos here after you scroll down a bit).
He accepted my apology, laughed as I recalled those memories, and told me how happy he was to hear each one of them.
He fell into a sudden and unexpected dementia, and a quick, downward spiral with this health while in the hospital after having surgery on his foot in July, and all I could think about was how happy I was that I had made that phone call.
I don't know why he was such an angry, difficult man and I feel sad that he spent much of his life that way. That kind of brokenness is painful to see in anyone. But he did some really kind and wonderful things as well - things that shaped me into the woman I am and gave me memories that I wouldn't trade for anything. And ultimately, he loved me. Maybe not in the way that I think love should always be expressed, but he loved me (and the rest of his family) to the best of his capabilities, and I'm thankful for that.
I love you grandpa.
That's my Grandpa and his mom, Selma (we called her Mi-Mi).
Him and his little brother.
That last one with the baby chicks is my favorite.
That's him in front.
Him holding my mom.
My Grandpa, my Grandma, my mom (the oldest), my Uncle Donnie (on the left), my Uncle Brad (at the bottom), and my Aunt Kelly (the baby).
That's the whole lot of us. I'm the baby, sitting next to my mom, my dad, and my sister.
My grandparents and all of their kids.
The most peaceful and content photo I've ever seen of my Grandpa (holding his granddaughter, Nicole).
My grandma and grandpa (and I'm guessing that's my Uncle Donnie in the background with the bunny ears).
My grandpa holding his first great grand baby (Ross).
One with Ross and Coley.
One from my wedding reception.
My family all likes to tell stories about me tackling my grandpa during this football game (hence the mud, grass stains, and duck poop), but the TRUTH is that he fell before I even touched him.
That's Annie and Cole with my Grandpa.
Another with Yans.
My Grandpa with his wife Bev (my Grandma died 20 years ago) whom we all love and have adopted as our own.
Christmas a few years back.
My Grandpa trying to use a computer mouse like a microphone to talk to my Aunt Kelly via Skype (we never let him live that down - or the multiple times he tried to eat potpourri at my mom's house).
Christmas a few years back sitting next to my Uncle Brad.
And the last photo I ever took of him, celebrating his birthday with Courtney Lee and my Aunt Alicia in May.
Makes me thankful for family, forgiveness, and photography.