June 14, 1947
At home – the house they bought new in 1957. Grandpa will take his last breaths in this room.
This is how I will always remember him – wearing my favorite glasses, smoking a pipe, and driving the white LTD.
He and Juniper were good friends. He called her Juni and liked to give her lots of treats. She repaid his kindness by taking on the role of guard dog.
Marvin, Marv to friends, Dad and Grandpa to a very lucky few.
Grandpa L O V E D. He loved his family, my grandma most of all. He loved an afternoon cocktail, the stronger the better, “A touch more whiskey, please, Leenie” (what he always called me). He loved to camp and especially to fish, sometimes to hunt. He loved to eat: cookies, a good tamale, salmon, asparagus with hollandaise, biscuits and gravy, pecan pie. He loved to have fun: to laugh, to tell stories, to play Farkle and throw horseshoes, to while away the afternoon in the company of a friend. He loved whistling to the radio, playing his favorite big band music and standards of yore. He was one of those people that charmed the room, easy going and light-hearted; his whole being said, “Welcome.” And though it was less frequent, he loved solitude, too: immersing himself fully in the crossword, sitting alone on the back porch watching the birds, smoking his pipe.
He served in World War II, after memorizing the eye chart to gain entrance to the Navy. He was among the lucky who saw no combat while serving in Guam, though was not spared injury, nearly dying from typhus while his unit attempted to find a cure. Upon his return, he met and fell in love with my Grandma in Albuquerque, and sold his car to buy an engagement ring. His best man drove them so they could celebrate with a single night in Santa Fe, taking the bus home.
Tenacious and charming, it was no surprise that he became a salesman for medical equipment, Cutco Knives, and an independent insurance agent, earning trophies, accolades, and trips for his hard work. He and my Grandma took a proper honeymoon to Niagara Falls (where they saw Joseph Cotten and Marilyn Monroe – her dress was painted on!!), and flew to Mexico, New York, Florida, and California, even a solo trip to Canada for the best fishing of his life.
His health declined since losing my Grandma nearly three years ago, and it was my great wish that he would die on the same day as she did, a sweet reunion of souls. I am beyond grateful the last of his suffering did not stretch out that long. He contracted pneumonia and fell three times last week, doing awful damage to his already fragile body, bruises and sores and wounds. He hurt everywhere, the lightest of touches causing him to cry out in pain.
Greg and I, knowing the time was near, came to give much needed respite to my exhausted mom, aunt, and uncle. We arrived Friday evening, and though he could no longer walk, his spirit was intact, giving a hearty “Bless your heart!” for baking his favorite biscochitos. He ate one, and we chatted and laughed before giving him his medicine and going to bed. I awoke to him screaming at 1:15, in pain or in terror, I am not certain. He refused more medication, but I was able to soothe him back to sleep.
Saturday, my cousins and our dear friend Sybil Ann surrounded him with love, and he delighted in seeing everyone and calling each by name. We listened to his favorite music, Frank Sinatra and Barbra Streisand. As the day wore on, he became tired and grew confused, starting sentences with clarity but ending them in gibberish or not at all. I asked him if he knew where he was, and when he nodded yes, I said, “Hawaii, right?” He exploded with laughter and smiled! How glad I am to have made him laugh one last time. He ate a bite of cookie and slept a lot. The pneumonia was awful and the blanket hurt his tender skin, so I helped him cough out the uglies and rubbed pain lotion on his withered leg.
He shouted out and grabbed the hubster’s hand, “Greg! Help me up!” The hubster asked, “Where do you want to go?” Grandpa replied, “I don’t know…” but kept a firm grasp on his hand, only releasing it to mine, then Sybil Ann’s, hours having passed, keeping a last hold on this life, I suppose.
After the family left, we kept the music playing and he lost consciousness. The nurse came, taught me more ways to keep him comfortable, and we talked about the signs – there were more and more. I swabbed his mouth and gave him syringes of water to keep it moist. We went to bed.
I awoke at 2:30 to check on him, his poor body heaving. I swabbed his mouth again, gave him more water, and a dose of morphine to ease his pain. I stroked his hair and kissed his head. I whispered, “Good night, Grandpa. I love you. We all love you and will miss you. It’s okay if you want to let go.” Twenty-eight minutes later, he was gone.