Gramps, 1923-2011


My Grandpa would have been 88 in July.  However, the past two weeks he was hospitalized due to liver failure (as the nurse said, ‘poor guy, never had any of the fun that usually causes this!’ – I don’t think my Grandpa has taken a sip of alcohol in his entire life).  Thankfully, my sister and I had the opportunity to go out to El Paso last weekend with my dad to see my Grandpa.  We got to give him massages, feed him his dinner, help him with his exercises, and just hang out.  Gramps and I even got to talk a little bit about my wedding a few months ago, the basketball season at UTEP, and all the stuff going on in this ‘upside-down world’ as he calls it.  As we left, my Grandpa just cried (as did we) and made sure to say, ‘I love you…I’ll see you soon, alright?’  I think the hardest part of watching his body fail him was the fact he was scared and didn’t seem ready to go (he pointed to me and suggested he might want to wait for me to have another great-grandbaby for him…he was blessed with two in this past year!).

My cousin Heather and her son Xavi got to go out and visit Gramps this past weekend and he could barely open his eyes.  I’d had the week to process what I’d seen and experienced with Gramps and had some stuff left to say, and Heather was gracious enough to read this letter to him,

Hi Grandpa!
I’ve obviously been thinking about you lots lately!  I was talking to my Dad about how great it is that you live a life of such integrity – that there are no questions as to who you care about, who you love, and about your values – I’m always amazed by your consistency – your great attitude, your involvement in organizations and lives, your care and love for Grandma and all of us…and your character – so genuine, loving, and strong.  The Bible talks about being ‘steadfast and immovable’ and I think you are just that.  It’s awesome to live a life of no regrets and I think you’ve set that example for all of us.  As I was thinking of you living a life with no regrets, I began wondering if there was going to be anything I would one day regret not talking to you about.  Obviously, it’s difficult to talk on the phone with everything going on over there and while I was there in person, I hadn’t had the chance to process all of this yet – so thankfully, Heather is there now and she agreed to read some of this to you 🙂 
Life is so interesting because really the only thing certain about it is death, yet the idea of death is still so frightening.  However, my student passing away last week just continued to reinforce the idea that none of this is guaranteed – I don’t know that you’ll for sure be here this summer, I don’t know if I’ll still be here this summer, and really I don’t know who will be here this summer.  So I really want to continue to live in a way that I have no regrets in the way that you have – that people know that I love them, that people know where I stand, that people feel cared about by me.  I think the scariest part is the unknown also.  The Bible talks a lot about heaven – and I know that John has been coming in there along with other people from church.  I don’t want you to be scared Grandpa.  I want you to be excited about Heaven – whether it is weeks from now, months from now or years from now.  Sometimes, I still get jealous thinking about how my friend Kisha is there right now and I’m not.  Not that I want to die yet, but the reality of what Heaven is is so appealing to me.  We get new bodies!  We get to dance!  We get to meet God face to face – to hang out with Him, praise Him, worship Him – I just think that is so awesome.  That we get to spend eternity in His presence!  I don’t want you to be sad… because we’ll all get to see each other again whether here or there.  I don’t want you to be scared…because the Bible tells us what is coming next when we believe in Jesus.
I’m praying for healing for you Grandpa – I’m praying for comfort for you.  I’m praying that you’ll continue to be able to find the joy and strength and gratitude that you have despite all the pain that you are in.  I’m so encouraged by you, Grandpa.  You are an incredible man and have set an amazing example of a husband, a father, and a friend.  I just might go write notes to everyone now while I’m at it just to make sure everyone knows how much they mean to me!  I’ve got a lot of writing to do 🙂  Thank you so much for who you are, Gramps!  I’m excited to come spend a few days there this summer before moving out to Dallas.  I love, love, love you!  (Insert big hug and a little massage here)…

I don’t think I could begin to say enough positive things about this incredible man.  Seriously.  I stand in awe of how he lived his life and the person he is.  I’ve never heard him complain (even in the hospital, he was thanking all of the nurses for their care each time they came in) and I’ve NEVER heard him say anything remotely negative about anybody – how is that even possible?!  He was the most precious husband to my Grandma – they were married for almost 64 years and Gramps knew from the time he saw my Grandma she was the one…Grandma wasn’t too sure…he was ‘too nice’ she said.  Then, in a movie theater, Gramps moved her class ring from her right hand to the left and they were engaged 🙂 

We’ve been blessed to have some incredible family celebrations – their 50th anniversary at Disneyland with the whole crew, Grandpa’s 80th Birthday party, Grandpa’s 85th birthday party, their 60th anniversary at Pagaent of the Masters, a small get together for Grandma’s 85th this past year, Thanksgivings, Drew & Becky’s wedding, Heather and Tom’s wedding, our wedding in August.  This in addition to all of the trips they made to Denton and Las Cruces to watch me play throughout college.  My grandpa would listen to the games on the computer and was even known to take stats.  He printed out pictures of all of my teammates and had their names memorized when they saw them.  My coaches would let me stay at their home when we played New Mexico State and they’d feed me well and play plenty of games with me (Mexican Train, Rumikub, Liverpool, etc.).  Their house was full of fun, games, pool time, and as we grew up, gumdrops and lots of candy and ice cream 🙂 

Throughout college, I’d have a lay-over in El Paso on the way home to Phoenix.  No matter what they were doing, they’d make their way to the airport to spend 30 minutes or a few hours with me.  We’d play boggle and eat lunch (and grandma would pack all the extras in the ziplocks she carries in her purse for later) – one time, Grandma was busy preparing for a party they were having, so Gramps still came and took notes on everything I talked about so that he could tell Grandma. 

He was the kindest, most gentle, loving, consistent, and compassionate man.  I’ve seen that grown man cry quite often!  Who says grown men don’t cry?  Particularly Army Men – and we’re talking about a Colonel here!  He spent a lot of time in the Army and then retired in El Paso where he started teaching math at the Catholic school.  Even this past Thanksgiving, Gramps scored ‘Very Superior’ on the math section of a Formal Assessment I administered on him – too cute! 

I’m so blessed to be able to call this man my Gramps.  He was an incredible example of a human being and I can only hope to be more like him in my days to come.  We’ll all be going to El Paso this weekend to honor and celebrate his life.  He will be deeply missed by many…particularly this granddaughter of his.


About KarolynK

Hey there! Thanks for checking out my blog! My name is Karolyn (as you probably know) and I live in San Diego with my amazing Husband. I've been teaching Special Education for the bast six years and LOVE it! I am loving life and just trying to figure out if I'm doing what it is that God is wanting me to do....always a process! Thanks for sharing in this journey with me though, I really do appreciate it.

2 responses »

  1. Karolyn, your contribution of heartfelt love to your Grandpa is the best reflection of all, to exemplify the amazing standards by which he lived. . .his legend lives on!

  2. I’ve been thinking of Lee a lot in the past few days; of how much we’ll all miss his zest for life and that infectious smile and laugh of his. Most of the parents of my generation are gone now; certainly at least one of them in each family. Having Lee and Pat together for so long was such a blessing; two people who adored each other and loved their family and friends unconditionally. Seeing the two of them as the last and oldest married couple on the dance floor at your wedding will be forever etched in my mind, as I’m sure it will be in yours.
    I remember meeting Lee for the first time in 1971. I was in Vermont skiing with uncle Ken and we went to dinner at Kathy’s parents’ home in Northfield. The thought of meeting a real live Colonel in the U.S.Army was intimidating to say the least for a recent college graduate who was an anti-war activist and somewhat of a stoner. I was pleasantly surprised when I was introduced to a warm hearted gentleman who would become a lifelong friend.
    Lee was a man of conviction who could listen to others and never impose his opinion on them. I have never heard him talk ill of others even if he strongly disagreed with their opinions or their lifestyles; that’s a very special quality, one that we should all seek to achieve. We live in a diverse world, and we often disagree with those around us; how much better a place it would be if we all had your grandpa’s disposition. I have always felt that Lee found the good in the people that he knew, and forgave whatever faults that he may have percieved in them. I honestly can’t think of too many people that I have admired more than him; and feel very blessed to have had him as a friend and a cherished member of my extended family for so many years. I’m a firm believer that every experience that we have in life leaves us stronger if we embrace it. While we’ll all miss him; if we remember who he was, we will be stronger and better human beings from having known him. Cherish both his memory and his spirit, and he’ll never leave you.

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