After his wife’s death, Grandpa Loren went into a state of depression (as most elderly do when their life partner has passed). His blood pressure began spiraling out of control. He needed someone to make sure he was taking his blood sugar medicine because sometimes he would forget and end up in the hospital because of it. He spent a couple more years cooped up in his house in Minnesota until finally my dad convinced him to move out to Virginia and live with my family. He moved out to Virginia in 1997 and I still remember his first day with us like it was yesterday.
In Virginia, Grandpa found new life. He could no longer drive a car which was difficult for him because he couldn’t go out and visit people when he wanted. But the lack of transportation wasn’t going to stop Grandpa from talking to people, that’s just the person he was. Within the first few months, he knew more people in our neighborhood than my parents did and they had been living there for more than ten years! He knew everyone on our street and they knew him, and liked him very much. He would stop and talk to someone for hours. Everyday he’d make his rounds to check up on the community.
When his legs became too weak to walk the distance of our neighborhood, that still didn’t stop him! He bought a scooter and would drive that thing around the neighborhood every day. I remember him taking me for a ride on it a couple times. I loved it because it could go up to about forty miles an hour and Grandpa was not afraid to push it to the limit!
Grandpa would always be sitting in his comfy layout chair, cigar in mouth, either listening to old opera music or watching old movies. I remember I’d sit in Grandpa’s room to watch old western movies (his favorite) and sports games. We’d always bet against each other to make the games more competitive. I would root for the Chicago Bulls and he would root for whoever was playing against them. His favorite actor was John Wayne, probably because he was from Iowa. I’m pretty sure he had every John Wayne movie ever made and could tell you anything there was to know about good old John. Everything that happened throughout his day reminded him of a story in his past. He was always telling stories! Looking back I wish I would have paid better attention but I was young and naive.
Grandpa died on March 3, 2002 in our home in Virginia. I remember the day like it was yesterday. It was a Sunday. I remember my mom waking me up with tears in her eyes, “Grandpa’s gone sweetie.” She asked me to round up my little brothers so she could tell them as well. We all cried for hours. Dad was downstairs with the police, filling out paper work as they took away his body. I don’t remember ever seeing my dad cry before that day.
The night before, my basketball team had won it’s final playoff game to advance to the semi-finals. Grandpa was in attendance (as usual) and he was just as happy for me as I was. I remember him saying, “good job out there son, you made your old Grandpa proud!” I’ll never forget those words. My game was that afternoon but I didn’t want to play. I was only twelve years old and had never experienced the death of a close family member before. But my dad wanted me to play, saying it would be what grandpa wanted, so I did. I felt weird getting ready for that game, it was unlike any other feeling I have ever had in my entire life. I just wanted to grieve but knew I had to hold my composure. No one knew that my grandpa had just died. No one knew the whirlwind of emotions I was feeling inside, but I did, and Grandpa did. Right before the game started I remember feeling a tremendous presence of peace come over me. The feeling is unexplainable. Whatever it was, I believe it attributed to what happened to be the greatest basketball game I had ever played. I scored more points in that game than I ever had before. I was unstoppable, making every shot I attempted. We were greatly outmatched by the team we were playing but we were winning for most of the game. It came down to the buzzer. We were ahead by two points when one of the players from the other team threw up a prayer from half court that went in right as the buzzer sounded. It was a devastating loss for the team, but it really didn’t effect me that much, I had my mind on something greater than the game of basketball. Although we lost, I felt Grandpa with me on that day.
All in all, I look back on my time spent with Grandpa as a wonderful experience. He taught me many valuable lessons and gave me tremendous advice that I didn’t pick up on until years later. I wish he was still alive so that I could obtain more knowledge from him. I wish I valued the wisdom of the elderly as much as I do now. As a kid, I knew nothing. I thought I knew it all, but knew nothing. I was clueless and helpless. I am thankful that I even learned as much as I did from him, even if it was subconsciously. Grandpa and I butted heads a lot, but I realize now that it’s because we were so much alike. He, like I, was stubborn and always thought he was right. I can’t begin to count how many arguments we got into over silly little things like, how many home runs Babe Ruth hit or how far away the nearest grocery store was; it didn’t really matter whether or not we had the right answer as long as we won the argument. Now that I’m older, the similarities between he and I are becoming more and more apparent. He, like I, was a tremendously social character. He was friends with everyone, especially the ladies. He had the dream of making it big, but always kept family his number one priority. I truly believe that out of everyone in my family tree, I am most like my Grandpa Loren. It’s a shame I didn’t get to know him longer…