Yesterday, at around noon, my grandfather passed away due to complications from a recent stroke. He was 86 years old. He had lived a long, good life, having survived and recovered from polio still able to lead an active life. He had worked for the Corps of Engineers and was part of several projects that helped build this country up.
Gramps was always a larger than life figure to me. I spent many summers with him as a child and every one of those times was pure magic. We did a lot together and I'll never forget it. It was Gramps who taught me how to swim like a fish. There were road trips, country markets, afternoons on the patio eating cold cuts and sipping cool drinks. If not for Gramps, I'd never have seen our nation's capital, visited Bull Run, Gettysburg, toured the Pentagon or walked through the amazing halls of the Smithsonian. But it was so much more than just trips.
Gramps was the sort of man who never seemed angry. He always had a smile and the most level temper. There was a whimsy to him that seemed to defy his years. I remember he used to get to know and name the humming birds that visited the feeder on his patio. I always loved hearing about a bullying Ruby Throat named "Nasty McAsty".
I think it is safe to say that Gramps is one of the reasons I am who I am. Never having had a strong male figure in my life, I think that in many ways I may have latched on to many of his examples without knowing it. Heck, it was Gramps who took me to my very first Star Wars movie and then to as many of the later ones as he could. His favorite was Empire Strikes Back.
Later in life I didn't see Gramps as much as I should have, but my love for him never diminished. I am sad that he passed without me being able to be more of a part of his life. Somehow, I know he understands and that he would never begrudge me my absence.
I love you Gramps...