This is the driver’s license issued to my paternal grandfather a decade ago. I always marveled that they even let him take the photo in his Santa costume.
He was the last of my living grandparents and he died yesterday.
It’s sad, but not a tragedy. He was 87 years old. He lived a long, good life, taken care of by someone else for nearly all of it. In my lifetime, it was first by Grandma, to such an extent that he lasted far longer after Grandma passed — four and a half years — than any of us expected. Things were touch and go a few years ago until Dad and Sherri found a home in Olympia for him to live in, in which he flourished because now they were the ones taking such good care of him.
Real talk: through most of my life, although I generally liked him, and I did love him, Grandpa was kind of an asshole. In the past couple of years, to my amazement, he became far less so, a decent, pleasant human being. This is a guy who went out with a sort of sense of redemption. He was a massive irritant for many years, though occasionally fun and funny, but in the end he left me with a positive memory of him. He left the world with an impression of him as a good man.
He will of course be forever intertwined with Grandma as a unit, the beacon for the entire extended family, the center around which we all revolved. I have an incredibly strong sense of family and it’s because of them.
And now some fun facts!
*You can see on the license that his middle name was Ashley. When asked why his mom called him Ashley, Grandma would pipe in: “She really wanted to call him Asshole!” Grandma never swore, and thus she said this very sparingly, which gave it massive impact.
*I only noticed this today: You can see Grandpa himself in this photo. That’s his giant belt buckle in the background. (When he wasn’t dressed as Santa, he was always in jeans, flannel shirts and a cowboy hat.)
*Details that come to mind when I think of Grandpa through the years: The way he’d belch and immediately say, “’Scuse the pig!” The way he would fall asleep sitting up in front of the television he constantly watched literally all night, and if you turned it off he would immediately wake up and say, “I was watching that!”
*And my favorite: Grandma’s ashes have been sitting inside a gift box on a shelf in Dad’s office for the past four and a half years, just waiting for Grandpa’s passing, so that their ashes can be joined for the scattering. Grandma actually stipulated that their ashes be scattered together at Twanoh State Park, on the southern shore of Hood Canal in South Puget Sound, during a full moon. Sherri always theorized this must mean they once had, uh, a “special time” at that park.
*So! There is a full moon on Friday, September 16, and that is when this is going to happen. Grandma and Grandpa were big on picnics. And cookies. An idea is taking hold that we all bake and bring way too many cookies, just like Grandma and Grandpa always had. I cannot tell you how much I love this idea, and how much I look forward to this day, which is shaping up to be way different from your standard memorial service. It’ll be a beautifully personalized sendoff for these two members of our family.