This weekend was a tough one because we received the news that my grandpa passed away. He was 90 years old and lived a wonderful life – married for 60-plus years, raised 5 children (my mom is the oldest), and provided for his family as a business owner and general contractor. They moved around from Alabama to New Mexico and retired in beautiful Ruidoso, NM. He was so proud to become a grandfather 10 times over, traveled near and far to attend sporting events, loved hearing the latest news of achievements and plans, and welcomed all of us anytime to their home in the mountains for a getaway. My sister was the first to give a great-grandchild and he had 10 more to hold by the time he left this earth.
Boy, did he love babies.
He was a loving, kind, soft-spoken, hard-working man. I was proud – so proud – to be his granddaughter. Our last visit to Ruidoso was in 2009, and Grandpa was still pretty healthy and active. Not too long before then he was climbing up on ladders (much to the disapproval of my aunts and uncle who couldn’t dissuade him!) hanging thousands of Christmas lights (think Griswold’s…he won “Most Luminous” in a contest).
He also set out to add permanent beauty to his house (that he had built himself in the mid-80’s), and with help, he labored long hours fixing up an outdoor kitchen and landscaping oasis in the backyard.
We always lived on the east coast, so growing up our visits weren’t as frequent as I wished. Certainly not as often as we had liked once we got married. Mike and I made it out there for a handful of events like my grandmother’s 75th birthday, their 60th wedding anniversary, and Grannymom’s funeral (which was just 2 weeks before Max was due). We loved coming to Ruidoso, catching up, and feeling easy about how much fun there was to be had. Our family is always playing games, sharing great food, telling stories, and laughing hard.
But there were the quiet moments, too, that I absolutely loved.
My grandpa loved feeding his hummingbirds. There was a long span of time when many, many hummingbirds came to the feeders and the sight would entertain my child-self all afternoon. No matter what he was doing, if he saw any of us out there on the porch, I think Grandpa (also known as Papa) picked up his supplies for the feeders and would join us. He busied himself with making the food, but then that would always start a conversation. As an introvert, he savored the quiet. But he also went out of his way and enjoyed being with people.
He enjoyed lots of things like baseball, cooking breakfast (if you’ve ever met a man who quietly served others with joy in his heart, then you are blessed to know men like my grandfather. By the way, my father in law is the same), and fishing. My cousins, aunts, and uncles went on numerous fishing trips with him, and I know they will greatly miss those times with him.
I have a few memories that stand-out that I’ll share with you. One, he always took me on a walk down his long driveway to put out food for the bears at night. I thought that was perfectly normal. Two, there was never a moment when I heard him complain about anything. Three, he was strong and steady in his faith. Four, I never doubted how much he loved his wife.
He loved to see her happy. My grandmother was very special. She had a big, warm personality, a to-do list a mile long, and a standing appointment at the beauty shop where she wrote each grandchild letters on pretty stationery that smelled of her perfume. When she collected Beanie Babies and insisted on filling lighted curio cabinets in the living room with the stuffed bears, he probably didn’t say a word (at least that’s what I’m picturing in my head). And when he gave me one of those bears for Mini – a white angel with gold wings – he had tears in his eyes and said how much he missed Grannymom. He wanted me to have the bear, but giving it away pulled at his heart. That was almost 7 years after she left his side.
My mom and I are flying to Ruidoso on Wednesday to be with the rest of the family. I’m of course sad for the reason of this trip, but once again, reminded of the many blessings I have just thinking about where I come from and who God used in my life to share His love.
Very blessed, I am.