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July 24, 2007

"Rest in Peace Granddaddy"

My grandmother called tonight. My last grandfather passed away this evening in the hospital. He had been fine the last few days and then, when she went home for dinner, his heart just gave out. She got back to him in time for a few words and then he died.

I've been to Kentucky twice in the last few months, bracing for this. When I was home the last time I thought things were headed into steep decline and was amazed when they discharged him. His return to the hospital was for bed sores and things had been looking up before this afternoon.

The last few months have really been hard for a lot of reasons. Louise, my dad's mom, has been having some problems with her memory and it's been rough. With my mom's dad it was his physical health, not his mental facilities. (Although anyone who ever had to sit through one of his conversations about why we should all avoid fluoride might argue differently.) Today wasn't really a surprise so much as an expected event that I just didn't expect today.

My grandfather was a father to me growing up. When my parents split when I was young it was my mom's parents raised me. (They were over a decade younger than my dad's parents at the time of the divorce.) There are a ton of memories that have come back to me over the last few hours and it's hard to not let my mind race through them.

I'll be driving tomorrow, a long trip that I'll try to knock out in a day. Ironically my one good suit is back from the cleaners and, for once, a supply of dry cleaning isn't a problem. No arrangments yet but that will sort itself out tomorrow.

After speaking to my grandmother I got a hold of my mother to let her know. The usual strain of our conversations was even worse with the news. I said I was sorry to be the bearer of the news and tried to keep the call short. This weekend is going to be filed with enough angst that, hopefully, the regular frictions will be kept to a minimum. Who knows. I might end up taking more of my flight medicine than if I tried to fly around the world a few times.

I've got a nice picture that I have been meaning to post for months of us. Here it is:


That's yours truly being instructed on how to use the new radio that Granddaddy got for Christmas in 1969. (I would have been about a year and a half old.) The glasses and tie are a great touch. If you look closely you can see he's moving my hand to try to prevent my breaking something before he's even had a chance to work with it. He used to record me with the cassette recorder that was in that radio. (Including my awful 1st night as a radio announcer.)

He was, it's safe to say, a nerd. (I now own his slide rule that I will give to Jack one day.) A chemical engineer by trade his passion really lay in trying to help people. (Even those who didn't want it.) For as weird as he could be, and he could be truly weird, his heart was always decent. My great aunt Shirley's oldest son was having a hard time making ends meet his last year in college and my grandfather never hesitated to give him the money he needed to finish his degree at a time when money wasn't plentiful in our house. He was as decent a person as you could ever hope to meet.

I just have to quit writing for a while tonight. Part of me is holding back tears and the other part of me wants to just keep pouring out stories about him. (He never swore in front of me until I was 12 and even then he had to force it.) Despite everything, knowing it had to happen eventually, I just miss him. I miss him because, while he isn't my father, he was my father for so long. He bought my tricycle, he let me stay up late to watch "Kelly's Heroes" the first time, he took me see some weird movie in 1977 because it had Alec Guiness and if he was in it then it probably wasn't half bad despite the weird name of "Star Wars" and hundreds of other things.

I miss him. I miss him and wish Jack had gotten a chance to know him better. The last time he saw Jack he said that Jack was afraid of him and seemed disappointed. That's all he said afterwards, "Jack's afraid of me" or similar. Everything I would say counter to that was in one ear and out the other. Now it's too late to argue with him anymore and there is nothing I can say.

Jack came up to me and asked me if I was sad tonight and I told him that I was. I explained that daddy's last grandpa had died and when I was finished I just sort of stopped. After a few seconds Jack said "It will be ok daddy."

I know it will but it just hurts like Hell right now.

Posted by Jim at 09:04 PM | Comments (4)

July 26, 2007

Hello again ...

Hello again from the Astronomer ... I talked with Jim today while he was driving back to KY. He wanted me to let you all know that if you want to do anything in light of what has happened to his grandfather, that his grandmother would prefer you to make a donation to the church in his name. So if you would like, please make a donation

First United Methodist Church
Attn: Jeanne Howell
1811 Carter Ave
Ashland, KY 41101

in the name of Steve Ogden (please forgive me if I spelled his name incorrectly)

Jim also wanted me to let you know that visitation with the family will be held this Saturday (July 28th) at the Miller funeral home in Ashland. The funeral will be at noon on the same day.

If you get a chance to ask Jim about his grandfather, do so ... I never met him, but have heard a few great stories from Jim about him. OK, back you your normal blogging poster.

Posted by Jim at 05:41 PM | Comments (0)

July 27, 2007

"It costs how much? That's more than the cost of my first 3 cars combined."

Well I'm here.

Two days of long driving alone in the car. (I'm going to be here for the next 10 days so it just made more sense to drive than fly and rent a car.) All in all things are about what I expected.

My grandmother is holding up ok. She's tired and could really use some peace and quiet but she's not had any for about the last 6 months so why should the last few days be any different. We sat down last night and talked about things a bit. She needs to start talking to her family lawyer to get things rolling, go to the bank to the safe deposit box, etc. Lots of procedurial things.

At one point last night the facade cracked and she started to break down. How do you spend 63 years, 1 month and 17 days next to someone and then have them leave your life? Hard to contemplate.

My phone has been ringing on a pretty steady basis with people's kind thoughts and wishes and that is greatly appreciated. Also many thanks to the Astronomer for his post yesterday. (My grandmother is swamped in food and flowers and I told her to give me an alternative for people to exercise.)

I slept last night at the hotel for a while which was the most sleep I've gotten in the last few days. (No one tried to rob me checking in this time.) My mind is racing with thoughts of my grandfather and everywhere I go this morning I keep thinking about him.

I'm at the local library typing this and had the most pleasant surprise: I ran into Selma! Yes indeed the Kentucky Philosopher's wife works here! We're going to spend time this week together so this means I get more of his stories to share. (His instant messenger motto is currently "Mess with one bean you get the whole burrito!")

My Mother arrives tonight. She leaves tomorrow night. 'Nuff said.

I've been playing the CD "Sam's Town" by the Killers since I got here last night in the car and it might end up being the soundtrack for this visit.

Surprise #1: Burial instead of cremation which makes no difference in the long run.

Surprise #2: Cost was less than I thought but still in the range of the above mentioned combined automobile purchase price.

Surprise #3: Tim Horton's, at least the Ashland ones, are the slowest Tim Horton's ever. (Ok. Not really a surprise.)

Surprise #4: The hotel bar is closed until further notice. *sigh*

Surprise #5: I'm not as sad as I thought I would be but it's going to hit me at some point.

Surprise #6: After spending decades of having his Sister in law, Beulah, living behind him he's going to spend the rest of eternity with Beulah eventually next to him in the mausoleum. *chuckle*

Saw my high school classmate last night at the next door neighbor's last night. (Her name is Noel. Want to guess what day she was born on?) She and their family were very kind. We agreed that next year brings the Birthday That Shall Not Be Mentioned and that is the way it should be.

The funeral home is the same one that friends of mine wound up at after the 20th reunion last year. (The daughter of the owner was in my class.) When the party was winding down they were being kicked out of the venue and, at one of the staff's urgings, took the remaining contents of the open bar back to the funeral home and sat around in one of the parlor's having a bit of a kitchen party.

The library has changed so much since I was a kid. The computer I am typing this on is a direct result of the Gates Foundation's inititive to empower libraries around the country. It's part of a bank of 12 with high speed access and everything you need to, in theory, find a job. Currently, in my field of vision, someone is looking up a trip to Disneyland and a young gentleman with a number of interesting tattoos is checking out some of his friends on Myspace. Alas, dear reader, the myspace patron's baseball cap is indeed sideways. *sigh*

Death is inevitable. I know that. You can't think that it won't come for you. I've been bracing for this for months but nothing can prepare you for the words when you hear them. What eases the pain, somewhat, is that he died smiling holding his wife's hand and that it was peaceful and easy.


Posted by Jim at 08:26 AM | Comments (0)

July 30, 2007


Even though I've known that Saturday was coming for a while it was easy to view it from a distance rather than to actually be caught up in it. A Funeral is what it is. It's not a Birthday party or a Graduation party or something jovial and festive. It's a chance to say goodbye, share memories, support family members and honor the dead.

I was pleasantly surprised by how many people came out on Saturday. (About half were my grandparents age and the other half split between my mother and aunts ages and closer to mine.) I had no shortage of "Look how tall and handsome you've become" compliments which proves that using the belt sander to get the ugly off earlier that morning was the right thing to do.

The minister's words were well received and everyone I spoke too thought he did a great job. I had wanted to speak but it didn't work out for time. By the time things were over Saturday I just wanted to sit somewhere under a tree with a beer.

Jack wanted to see my grandfather on Saturday and I lifted him up in my arms next to the casket. He asked if "grandpa" was sleeping and I said that he was. He asked if he was going to wake up and I explained that he wasn't. Finally he asked me if I was sad and I said "yes". Jack then leaned in to me and put his head on my shoulder and said, for the second time in the last few days, "It's ok Daddy."

And then it got just a little bit better.

Posted by Jim at 09:15 AM | Comments (0)

"My daughter could dig a hole through asphalt with a mushy banana."

The Kentucky Philosopher was in rare form Saturday night. I took notes in between the gasps for breath.

Yes, he's still working in the county Jail.

Yes, he's got more stories.

Yes, he looks even more like Sam Elliot.

Posted by Jim at 09:51 AM | Comments (0)