He was my dad's dad. And he died when I was only 11. That was a hard year for me. I was a seventh grader. Grandma, Grandpa's second wife and the woman who raised my dad and his two brothers after their mother left them, had died just six months earlier. Three months before she died, Grandma Charlotte, my dad's birth mother whom I only met twice, died too. It was a hard year. But back to my Grandpa.
Being that I was 11 when he died, I don't have too many memories of him from my childhood. Grandpa and Grandma had moved to Washington when I was a little, little girl. I have vague memories of their home in California and one memory of riding with them in their car when they lived near us. What I remember most about visiting them in Washington was Grandpa's garden. He was so proud of that garden. It was so big. Or maybe I was so small. But, whatever its size, it was a thing of beauty.
God was good to me though, because Grandpa basically lived with us during the last two months of his life. He had come to California to have surgery on his aortic aneurysm at the Presidio VA Hospital in San Francisco. Every Sunday afternoon for two months, we'd take him to San Francisco for his surgery which was repeatedly postponed. It became a sort of joke in our family.
Friday nights were my favorite nights with Grandpa. We'd bake cookies before watching movies as a family. Baba had long since taught me to bake and it was one of my favorite things to do. Grandpa had been a baker and Master Seargent in the Army plus a master baker for Oroweat Bread. He loved to bake too. I remember one Friday night in particular. I'd just taken the pan of cookies out of the oven and set them down on the counter. I reached for the pancake turner and went to take the cookies off the pan.
"Wait, Kristy. The secret to perfect cookies is to leave them set on the pan for one minute after taking them out of the oven and putting them on a plate." Grandpa told me. I did as he asked and what do you know? The cookies slid off perfectly without crumbling or getting all smushy. (that's a technical term) I think about that advice every single time I bake.
Grandpa was a tough cookie.
From the outside, he looked like a mean old grump. His voice was deep and raspy, and he often spoke gruffly. His name was Oscar and sometimes my sister and I jokingly called him Oscar the Grouch. He even had green arms like Oscar. He had tattoos up and down both arms and with age, they had kind of run together and made his arms look green. He used to hold them up from time to time and tell us to not ever get tattoos unless we wanted to have ugly, green arms like him one day.
On the inside, Grandpa was a softie. He and Grandma had a few prized cats over the years and my Dad used to tell us how Grandpa cried when Ming Sing died. When Grandma died, Grandpa was so very sad. I can still see the tears running down his cheeks and the look of bewilderment on his face. He was heartbroken.
The last time I saw Grandpa was Sunday, November 22. We'd just spent another great week-end with Grandpa and it was time to take him to the hospital. He joked that we shouldn't bother because they were just going to postpone his surgery yet again. We had lunch at Mel's and Grandpa bought my sister some SenSen Mint Candies. As we walked from the diner back to our car, we passed a homeless man sitting on the corner, begging for money. Grandpa paused for a minute then reached for my to-go container.
"Kristy, let me have your leftovers." I handed them to him. He took them and handed them to the man who appeared to be grateful. And we just kept walking as if nothing had happened.
"Why did you give that man my food, Grandpa?"
"Because he was hungry. So I gave him something to eat."
What do you say to that?
I love you Grandpa.