Thursday, April 9, 2009

Great Grandpa Herman

My family is very blessed. I’m the oldest of six and have a crazy extended family. We are all relatively close and have a great time when we’re together.

This year has been a little hard on us though. Last month, we lost my paternal grandmother. She was a vibrant, hard working woman who never said a bad thing about anyone. Before her death, my siblings and I were blessed to have both sets of our grandparents around. That is a rare feat these days, only beat by the fact that we had two great-grandparents who are still alive and kicking.

My Great-Grandpa Herman was born in 1922 in a small Oklahoma town. He grew up during the hard times of the Depression, joining the Army Air force. He served in World War II as a hump pilot. He later retired and worked for the FAA.

Great Grandpa Herman

Great Grandpa married my Great Grandma Betty a really long time ago. I don’t know the dates, because I wasn’t around then. But I know that they we’re married for over fifty years when she passed away.

Great Grandpa, Great Grandma, & Harvey

My mother always tells of great vacations her grandparents went on. They lived in Florida and would often visit Disney World. She was absolutely spoiled by her grandparents.

gpa 9

My mom married at eighteen and joined the Navy. Unfortunately, she was widowed before her nineteenth birthday when she was three months pregnant with me. Because I was their very first great-grandchild and born to a young widowed women, it was obvious that I would be one of their favorite grandchildren. The couple supported my mother as she tried to go through college as a single mother and later when she went through an abusive marriage.

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I really don’t have a lot of memories of time spent with my great-grandparents when I was little, but there are tons of pictures of me with them. Apparently Great-Grandpa has a tendency to hog babies whenever he got the chance.

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Great Grandpa also has a wonderful gift for telling stories. He has a memory like an elephant. His tales of the war and his service intrigued me in many ways. Of course, his voice is also very soothing and I often get sleepy when listening to him.

Great Grandpa drives his mini-van like it is an airplane. I remember numerous visits when he would chauffeur us around the city, making the entire family sick to their stomach.

Six weeks ago, Great Grandpa woke up one morning and couldn’t talk. He remarried seven years ago and lives at home with his wife. She took him to the hospital, where they ran numerous tests. They eventually found a fast growing tumor in his brain. The doctors gave him 4-6 weeks to live, predicting that the tumor would double in size during that time.

At eighty-six years old, there is little they can do this man who bravely served his country and raised three children. He has been at home on hospice for the last month. My immediate family all made a quick journey across the state to his house several weeks ago to say our goodbyes.

gpa 8

He could still talk, but he would get confused and forget what he was trying to say. Even better, he remembered who we all were, no small feat when you have eight visitors. It wasn’t a fun trip, but I was very glad that I got to spend an entire afternoon, surrounded by my family, making peace that Great Grandpa would be moving on to a better place.

Great Grandpa is nearing his end. He barely eats and sleeps all day long. I feel like I’m going through Grandma’s death again. This sucks…