This past weekend, we said our final goodbyes to my grandpa. He passed away a year ago, but his ceremony at Arlington National Ceremony only took place now.
The boys only met their great-grandpa once (Andrew was barely 4 and Dylan was 1) since he lived so far away in Southern California. I’ve asked Andrew is he remembers but he only has a vague recollection of picking oranges in great-grandpa’s yard.
I’ve been pretty lucky that I’ve had my mom’s parents in my life for so long. I have many friends who lost their grandparents, even parents, very young. My memories with my grandfather were really spectacular. I remember him as a calm and loving man with a quiet wit and light in his eyes when he smiled. He was always “tinkering” in the garage, fixing things, keeping busy, and working on getting the Ford Model A running so he could drive us around the block in it.
I absolutely adored my grandfather and have this memory of him as someone who was just a wonderful man. He had an amazing military career that I wish I could document with more accuracy. He was a Navy pilot who flew in the Korean War, World War II and Vietnam. He had more carrier landings that probably an overwhelming majority of Navy pilots and had more stories than he’d ever feel the need to share.
He was humble and didn’t talk too much about his stories, even when they were extraordinary – as I know from my grandmother many of his feats were quite extraordinary. He claimed he was doing his job – and he loved it. Later in his military career, he was given gifts from foreign dignitaries for flying them around, he didn’t want to accept them.
My everlasting pictures of him will not be the slow deterioration of his mind and body from Parkinson’s, it will be driving down the road in the Model A blaring the “I-U-G-A” horn, the way he loved his time with his grandchildren and how he’d quietly listen to banter around him then let out a witty zinger just when you’d think he wasn’t listening.
I want to share so many of these stories with my boys so they can grow up to be half the man my grandpa was. I know they will never remember meeting him and may never follow in his footsteps, but I hope they can view him as a hero in the same way I do.