Bittersweet memories can be. I keep thinking today of my grandfather (paternal style). Probably because of Remembrance (veterans) Day. Now I’ve not talked much about the ways of the family or the import they’ve had in my life … so bear with. This is where much of the chutzpah I have comes from. Let me preface this with a twinge of historical mumbo jumbo …
First generation German who fought in WWII _against_ his own German family. Man who snuck food while _in_ Germany to blameless aunts and many cousins who were starving to death. Their children and children’s children have him to thank for being alive. He was an unsung hero. My hero.Hans Otto Neugebauer. Grampa. Best man I’ve ever known. Eyes as bright blue as the sky and loved by everyone he ever met. Yes. Everyone. There was a line outside and around the block at his funeral. He was adored. Easy laughter and a smile for everyone. Never met a stranger.Literal movie star good looks; easily gave Frank Sinatra and Bing Crosby a run for their money. Tremendous athlete, starting the Akron Ski Club and almost making the Olympic ski team back in his day (not to mention his prowess at swimming and tennis). Built his own house, stone by stone, on the side of a hill, Frank Lloyd Wright Style. The man was exquisitely talented.
Sailor, hand crafted sailboats the likes of which you’ve never seen. Woodworker of unbelievable talent. Smooth as silk with his 5’7″ self and at the age of 70 looked more like 50. (k. now you get “sorta” an idea. my words don’t EVEN do him justice btw)
Grampa was my very best friend. He toted me around like a dolly in his hand crafted swimming pool and I was in heaven. The instant we visited I was hand in hand with this man who was SO kind. Eyes lighting up the instant he saw me with a whoop of AMYYYYYYYYYYY and a smile that was only just for me. (okay hopefully the tears splashing won’t interfere with this blog post. eh. that’s what editing is for. although i don’t edit. hmm. anyways …)
At the end of his days I was a grown woman. Just got married (he never ever ever liked my ex. I spose’ I should have listened to Grampa. He always did know me best) and had given birth to my miracle girl Ella Bella Lainey Bear Ninja. He got to hold her. I’m so glad for that. My grandmother was a bipolar, borderline personality disordered, narcissistic mess. And she made his life a living hell for well over fifty years. (I don’t have enough room to share all the hell that “Fritzi” was. just trust me k?) By the time he died, after waiting on a mean bitter woman for years and years, he had lost some of his sparkle. Some of his zest and ALL of his happiness.
He took me aside one day. He told me, “You are going to be in the same situation I’ve been in all my married life if you don’t get out. Don’t ever lose your “you”. You’re the best person I know kid.” This was a week before he died. He had an aneurysm in his heart. They caught it. It was to be removed and all should have been well. It wasn’t. He went into a coma two days after surgery. And I went out of my mind with grief. He was my everything. I knew what total unconditional love was because of this man.
I sat by his bed. Holding his hand. Day four of coma. He wasn’t coming back and we all knew it. I told him to go. Whispered to him for hours and days how much he meant to me. Told him stories of laughter and joy from when I was his “dolly”. Told him that he had made me the woman I was. Sang songs that we loved from Frankie baby and Ella Fitzgerald. Told him I would be right back, that I had to run home after three days straight because I needed a shower. Sponge baths in the bathroom weren’t cutting it. Told him to wait for me, because I wanted to be there with him when he left. I didn’t want him to be alone.
He died five minutes later.
Even then he loved me. Didn’t want me to have to see that. I know this. I’m still mad at him. And what prefaced all this emotionalism and remembrance besides Remembrance Day and all the posts about veterans? I just looked at a refinished table he made. By hand. It sits in my house to remind me that I have known complete and utter unconditional love in my lifetime. No holds barred. And I am in a full cry … it honors him.
I like the idea of that. I love you Grampa and miss you everyday.I remember.~ a.G.~