Friday, September 15, 2006

Rest in peace Grandpa...

Just a small personal note here... My grandfather died yesterday evening. Fortunately for the family (specifically my mom), it wasn't a surprise, and he had family there with him when he passed.

My grandpa had been battling esophageal cancer for a couple years, and every couple months went to the Mayo clinic for laser treatment to remove the tumors. But laser treatments weren't a permanent fix, so at the beginning of this year he decided to have his esophagus removed completely which meant moving his stomach up to the bottom of his throat. The surgery went well, but the recovery was a struggle. Acid reflux was no longer an inconvenience, it was now dangerous. It meant a several bouts with pneumonia and severe damage to the throat. He could no longer lay flat to sleep; his head had to be kept above his torso to keep his stomach acids from leaking into his throat and down into his lungs. All this while eating went from uncomfortable to painful. He lost his appetite which hampered his recovery which kept him from one of his true passions: golf.

So after 7 months of recovery and depression, he decided he would stop eating. The fetching Mrs. Wookie and I made the trip one weekend at the end of August to see him shortly after he made that decision. He looked emaciated, but he was still as sharp as ever. He insisted I take his golf equipment, and I nearly refused. I kept hoping the promise of playing my first round with my grandpa might encourage him, might give him hope. He still insisted, so I said I was only borrowing his lifetime supply of golf balls and practice targets. I really did want to give them back. I didn't want to take away one of his only passions left. His wife, my grandma died maybe 12 years ago and he lived in a nice gated community on a course in Las Vegas. I hoped the thought of it might inspire him.

I introduced him to his great-granddaughter, and he got to feel her growing and kicking in my wife for the first time. Sure he had a dozen other great-grandkids but they were from a slightly more aloof side of the family, and he never got to spoil them the way he spoiled me and my cousin as grandkids. When we were kids, my cousin and I would fly out to see grandma and grandpa for a week every summer. Everyday it was hot dogs for lunch and as many cookies as we wanted. Grandpa would teach us card games and we'd help him do yard work after which we'd go swimming.

As I got older and went to visit grandpa as an adult, I got to know him a little better. What a fascinating life. He was in the merchant marines, was a hunter, he worked construction on the Hoover dam, was an entrepreneur, and casino pit boss. With all that, I hoped maybe he would stick around longer so I could learn a little more about his life.

But recovery got to be too much and he stopped eating. I think he figure it would be relatively quick, but he was too healthy. He lasted almost 2 months without eating a thing.

I didn't agree with it, still don't; figured it was depression and hoped he would snap out of it. But now at least he's at peace, playing the back nine with St. Peter, Ben Hogan, and Byron Nelson.

Bye grandpa. Love you. You can have those golf balls back anytime you want.