You might remember earlier this year I did a three part retrospect on my Grandpa Lefty when he went into the hospital and we did not think he was going to make it. Thankfully he pulled through and we were all able to spend more time with him. He came over to my parents’ house in August for their 40th anniversary and spent pretty much the entire time in a chair with my two daughters on his lap or paying with him in some way. He was happy as a lark, as he would have told me. He loved his great granddaughters more than anything and these two girls light him up when they were around. Don’t get me wrong he loved all his grand and great grand kids, but his great granddaughters where his pride and joy. All the time he would tell my mom about how great “Saidey and that new baby of Johnny’s”.
A side story on the last line I feel I should point out. When Grandpa Lefty was in the hospital for all the bad things that were happening it really affected his memory and recollection of things because of the trauma and the medication he was on. He was forgetting things he would just say, mostly recent stuff that happened in the previous few months. It wasn’t his fault he forgot things so simple, he was on some pretty heavy stuff. He would sit there talking to you then say “Well, I hate to do this but I’ve gotta go. I’ve got my chickens to tend to” To be fair, he did have chickens at home, but he was strapped to a hospital bed by a breathing thing in his nose and several other tubes sticking into him that pumped him full of magical drugs to regulate everything. Needles to day he was forgetting things that even happened the week or month before.
I tell you that small tid-bit so the next one makes sense. At the time the above was happening my daughter Tegan was only a few months old. I went in to Grandpa’s room fully expecting him to not remember me and ask me who the hell I was, in that gruff overtone he has at times.
I get in there and he sees me and smiles “Hey Johnny!”
He was looking kind of worse for the wear. He had been through a lot and it showed. He looked weak for the first time in my life. Growing up he was always the strongest person I knew. “My grandpa can kick your grandpa’s ass!” I said this and completely believed it. No man I have ever met was able to lift a 100 pound fence post at 84 years old. This man could, and he wouldn’t stop until he was done.
“Hi Grandpa, how you doin’?” I asked him honestly surprised he knew who I was.
We small talked a little bit about things, he asked me for a knife so he could get out and leave. We talked about his chickens, his plants, his house and so on.
“Say John, how’s that new baby of yours? And that Saidey? She’s a real cute one!”
He was not able to remember things from an hour before or the last few weeks. But he remember my newest daughter. I’m not sure but this really made me proud. It made me feel like she meant enough to him for him to commit her to memory. Hell, to even remember that I HAD kids I was impressed with. It’s not that I thought him to be a dumb man, just I never thought he paid that much attention. Shit, I really should clarify this. He loved my kids, all of them. He accepted my boys as if they were my biological children 100% no questions asked. I remember sitting with him in his garage next to his fireplace talking about Kodi and Jakob and their situations. He would look at me, curse the people involved and tell me how proud of me he was and that I really turned out to be a good man. He was never one to judge my kids and he always loved them with open arms. He was amazing and the best thing he ever told me was that I had turned out to be a great father.
“Turned out” I thought. “Geez Grandpa, what did you think I was going to turn out to be? Some strung out musician who couldn’t manage to pay his bills let alone raise a kid?” Yeah, probably. Can’t say I blame him based on how I was in high school.
The morning of September 28th I went to work. I got up from my desk to talk to some co-workers. Ten minutes later Gabrielle walks up to me and tells me to call my wife, it’s important. “fuck” I thought. “What happened? The kids? Her mom? Her grandma? What did her brother do now” where the things that ran through my head. I was completely unprepared for what news she had. I went to my desk, grabbed my phone, saw that I had 10 missed calls and several text messages.
“hello” she said.
“Hey babe, what’s going on?” I asked her trying to be as positive as I could.
“Your grandpa is in the hospital, your mom says you need to get there now. It doesn’t look good” I could feel the sadness in her voice.
“oh…ok..I uh..I’m on my way…” was all I could get out.
I walked over and talk to my boss Jenny and then left. I stopped by the house, picked up Kaylie and we drove to the hospital. The drive was…interesting. I cried. She consoled. I sat silent.
We got there and rushed back to the room that he was in. When we got there the room was full of my aunts and uncles and my step-grandpa Lila, all of them sad. A nurse was speaking asking if they wanted them some more time. I heard something about how his ability to breath is diminishing and there was not much time.
I walked in.
Saw my mom.
I went to her.
Grandpa Lefty moved his head.
Took a gasp.
And it was over…
Homer Charles Riddle – 10-7-1924 – 9-28-2011