Ode to Papa Pete

Recently, I received a surprising phone call one morning as I was leaving the house to drop the kids at school.  It was unusual for my mom to call me at that hour, and she had a sense of urgency about her.  She struggled at first because she couldn’t figure out how to sugar coat it, and she finally just said, “Your grandfather is in the hospital, and he is going to die today.” During the night he had suffered an aortic aneurysm.  They had initially ventilated him at the hospital because they didn’t have the paperwork with his medical instructions yet.  However, they found that he would not be able to survive a surgery and his wishes clearly indicated he did not want to be kept alive on a ventilator.  The family made the decision to take him off the ventilator.  A lot of his family was able to come to the hospital to say goodbye including his siblings.  He was on a lot of pain medication so we know he was not suffering.  When they disconnected the ventilator, they say his soft snoring stopped and he just seem to sink deeper into sleep.  My family it was the most peaceful passing they had witnessed.

While it was sudden, in some ways we count it as a blessing.  He recently had been in a lot of pain with his joints.  Walking was extremely painful and starting to limit his independence.  Up until the day he passed, he was able to live in his own home, drive his own car, and maintain the lifestyle he wanted. This passing was quick, painless, peaceful and his family had time to say goodbye.  Of course the part that breaks all of our hearts is that my grandmother is left alone.  They were married for 67 years, and they spent most of that time side by side.  While she has a large support system, it will be a huge adjustment for her.

They held the services a couple days later, but because it takes us so long to travel back to the States, I was not able to make it.  All the other grandchildren were there, and other friends and family came from all over.  He was truly loved by many.  I had the fortune to spend every a month every summer with my grandparents.  We were very close, and I have a lot of special memories of my grandfather as a kid and as an adult.  The moment that he held my first child, his first great grandchild for the first time, is forever etched in my memory.  There is something so magical about seeing the love pass on through the generations.  There are a lot that of memories I could highlight- like how he would always take us for drives to get ice cream and then bring us to the cemetery to eat it, how he taught all his grandchildren to drive when we were way too young, how he was always the calm silent type until a toy got just too annoying and then he would chuck it out the car window onto the highway without a word, how he would ride around on his mower with a cigar and a beer.  He was a family man, a hard worker, a constant worrier, an artist, a musician, a master of grandpa jokes, a true renaissance man.  However, my favorite memory that I often recall is this:

One day, the whole family went out to a restaurant.  When I talk about the whole family, I’m talking out he and my grandmother, my parents, my sister and I, my aunts and uncles and my three boy cousins.  So we were a big, loud group.  As they come to deliver the food, we all get our lunch and he get a HUGE ice cream sundae set down in front of him.  I ask him, “Where’s your lunch?” and he responds, “I just felt like dessert.”  Of course we all turned to our parents and scream, “I just want dessert” to which we were promptly shut down.  I remember eating my lunch and watching him spoon up his ice cream with a grin on his face.  At the time, I thought- the gall of this man, to eat his ice cream in front of us when we are all forced to eat healthy food!  Now, I look back as an adult and I think, “Good for him!”  He sacrificed a lot in his life and lived through many difficult times.  If he wanted to eat ice cream, but golly, he should eat ice cream.  Life is short.  Even when you are 87, it never feels like enough time.  So eat the ice cream when you want, whether it’s in a restaurant with all your screaming grandchildren or on a leisurely stroll through the “marble orchard.”

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