If you knew my Grandpaw, when you thought of him you thought of music. He was a high school band director for many years and loved teaching music. Grandpaw was also an amazing jazz pianist and had several jazz bands that he was involved with--some were hilariously titled: Short Stuff (as he was the tallest in the group at around not much over 5 feet tall) and Grumpy Old Men. As a wedding gift to me, he had his trio "Jazzin" do music at my reception and my dad & I danced while he played a song that he wrote for me when I was born. He also introduced me to a lot of wonderful music--I learned about Gershwin from him as well as Jose & Astrud Gilberto, Blossom Dearie, and Karyn Allison (most people may not know bout the last ones but they are wonderful!). He really instilled a love for music in my mother and us.
Here is a video my brother took at Grandpaw's apartment when he & my sister visited w/my mom. He was really amazing!
Grandpaw also greatly influenced our love of reading. As my mom & her sister are going through his apartment they have really seen what was important to him. He lived in a small little place--most of which was taken up by his baby grand piano in the living room--and he didn't have a lot of stuff, but he had hundreds of books & jazz CDs. I remember as a child he was always a member of book clubs and loved to buy us new books for our birthdays & holidays.
He also had a wonderful sense of humor. As children we loved looking through his Far Side books and as an adult I was really able to appreciated his stories & laughter. He loved to go on cruises & he always told animated stories about the people he was there with. He had the best laugh too--I hope I never forget it.
He loved fishing as well and before he got his trach he really enjoyed deep sea fishing. He had several of his best catches mounted and I remember as a child reaching up to touch the fish on the walls--their teeth & gills were so sharp! He also had a sailfish that he had caught mounted and every Christmas he would decorate it with colored lights instead of having a Christmas tree.
pictures from a Grumpy Old Men performance last summer:
Grandpaw with my mom & her sister--his two daughters
with my sister, brother, and myself--his grandkids
the whole family:
Grandpaw's death was somewhat expected--in fact, it's a bit of a miracle that he made it as long as he did! In the last 10 or so years he has had multiple heart surgeries, survived throat cancer and multiple surgeries for that (resulting in a tracheotomy to help him communicate), and a few years ago (right around the time of my Granny's passing--Granny was dad's mom, Grandpaw was mom's dad) he was diagnosed with an aortic aneurism and congestive heart failure. We were told that basically he could drop dead at any moment.
The weekend before he passed was Father's day & he had been in the hospital for his heart but was doing much better. My mom & Dad & I drove to Paducah to spend the afternoon with him, and I'm so glad we did! He was in great spirits and was feeling well--we had lunch together & he joked around and we all laughed as if everything was normal. In fact, he was doing so well that he was released the next day to go home. Then on the morning of June 23 my mom called at about 2:45am b/c Grandpaw was back in the hospital and they said he probably wouldn't make it. My dad was in Colorado, sister in Japan, and brother in New York. Mom is still unable to drive long distances due to her ankle break so I rushed to her house to drive her to say goodbye to her father. Sadly, as she was locking the door to her house to get in my car she got the call from her sister that he had passed. It was a tough drive, but I am so thankful that I was able to be there for my mom during that time. We made it to Paducah shortly after 5 am and sat with his body in his hospital room with my Aunt Kelly and eventually Grandpaw's sister & her husband. He wanted to be cremated so we have been able to take time with the arrangements & it will allow for my brother to be back f/m New York and for many of Grandpaw's friends to come in for the Memorial service.
I don't know if this is weird to say, but I'm somewhat excited about the service. The service will reflect his love of music, life, & friends. His bandmates and friends from back to college will be there and many will play music there. It should be a wonderful celebration of his life.
I am so thankful to have been blessed to have him in my life. There are so many wonderful memories as we reflect on our time with him and I will miss him a lot. It is a sad feeling to have no more grandparents.