Most of you who read this blog (whenever I actually update) are probably aware that my grandfather passed away on June 30th after a very long battle with prostate cancer.
I have struggled with writing this post because I just can't wrap my mind around his being gone. I couldn't talk to my own children about it, instead I just talked around things or changed the subject if I felt myself becoming emotional. My mom was the one to talk to the girls and she was dealing with the death of her father, so that's how big of an emotional mess I am.
This isn't my first go-round with loss, as most of you know, but something about this is different.
Maybe it's because I was younger when my other grandparents passed away and I didn't fully understand the grieving process or let myself go through it. Maybe it's because I've experienced very deep and personal loss in my adult life and I struggle with my feelings about that as well. Maybe this just isn't something that can be explained away and I'm just really sad and that's all there is to it.
I wrote about my trip down to California to visit him in April, and I can't stress enough how happy I am that I made that choice. He had been sick for a few months and had many trips in and out of the hospital and my family was starting to worry that the plateau he had been on for so long was starting to go downhill. I don't know why, but I just had a feeling that it was a now or never trip and my heart told me to just do it, no matter what. I've always been sensitive, sometimes to a fault, but this is one of a handful of times that I can say I knew that what I was feeling couldn't be ignored.
Though I was able to see them rarely, I have a pretty special relationship with my grandparents. Our family is the only one of my mom's brothers and sister that doesn't live in California. While my uncles, aunts, and cousins all were able to be with my grandparents on almost a daily basis, we were lucky enough to see them maybe two times a year.
When my sister and I were younger, Grandma and Papa began driving (and then flying) up to spend Thanksgiving with us in Ellensburg. This tradition continued even after my parents moved to Spokane and only stopped a few years ago, at that. We even had a few Christmases at their house which were wonderful and yet strange because of the warm weather and lack of snow. Most years while they were up here, I would take him to school for show and tell and impress the pants off of the other little kids (and the teachers who loved General Hospital!) and he never refused though he'd done it time and again for me.
When I was in seventh grade, I started flying down to Burbank by myself to spend my spring break with them. It was incredibly exciting to travel by myself, even if for a 2 1/2 hour flight, and I got to have my grandparents to myself for a week. And though we see each other infrequently, I always love spending time with all of my cousins and had the best time each year that I was able to be there. I have been blessed to have a strong family bond on both my mom's and dad's side of the family. This was something that my grandparents stressed - that family came first and we should make time to be together.
My grandfather always talked to us about the importance of education and how, because of his career beginning at such an early age, he didn't have the conventional school experiences that we did. He didn't necessarily believe in rewarding good grades with money, but he always managed to slip me a little something for my hard work in school.
I was the first grandchild to go to college and he and grandma made a point of helping fund part of my tuition (and all grandchildren afterward) as long as my grades were in an acceptable range. It's things like this that I will never take for granted and will always be thankful for because I have a 4-year college degree and a first-rate education under my belt. I also have a good job, a good work ethic, and have been putting my degree to good use for the last 14 years.
Mark and I flew down to Burbank on Sunday the 6th to attend Papa's rosary the following evening and the funeral on Tuesday morning. We were invited by my cousin, Lauren, to stay with her and her husband, Pete, while we were there and really had a wonderful time reminiscing about Papa and our memories with him. We stayed up late, we drank too much, we laughed, we were sad, and we were thankful to be together.
All of the grandchildren were able to be there except for Quinn, the youngest of us, who had just graduated from high school and was away on a trip. Seven of us gathered at Papa's favorite Mexican restaurant, Viva, after the rosary for food and drinks and loud live music and it was pretty great.
Everyone deals with loss differently, and maybe it was frowned upon that we weren't sorrowful enough or didn't openly mourn, but what the nine of us agreed upon was that Papa wouldn't have wanted us weeping and moaning (though he did love drama!) - he would want us to be together, to strengthen our bond, enjoy each other, and talk about him with love. And as my cousin Allison remarked, "If any of you start crying, then I will cry and I probably won't be able to stop."
I'd like to think I held it together well, and maybe I did, but it was certainly difficult to walk into the church Monday evening for the rosary and see a giant picture of Papa on display rather than see the man himself.
My cousin, Allison, won't toot her own horn, but I have no problem doing it for her. She did an absolutely fantastic job of putting together a program for Tuesday's service. My mom had asked me, back in April, if I would be able to gather some information for the obituary so that she, her siblings, and grandma could make sure that everything was in place before Papa passed away. I was more than honored to do the legwork as I've always found my grandfather to be an interesting man. What I found was of no surprise to me because he has never shied away from sharing his beliefs: family is the most important thing in life, you get what you earn through hard work, and America is the greatest country in the world. I am certainly not taking all of the credit as it was a collaboration of what everyone knew, but will say I am extremely proud of how our family pitched in and did what needed to be done and that we all contributed something, no matter how insignificant we may have felt it was in the scheme of things.
WWII Army Air Forces B-29 Navigator
Archie Andrews radio show
This could be Bob Newhart, Danny Thomas, and Andy Williams...or a handful of men who resemble them.
Animation cell from the 1970's cartoon, Jeannie. Papa voiced the sidekick, Henry.
Some outtakes I found. Each picture a different face - one of the best and my favorite things about him.
Top left, Papa and Grandma at the 1960-something World's Fair. The rest are head shots - I'm partial to the one with the mustache.
This is the picture that has been on our refrigerator for as long as I can remember. It's a daily reminder of the love that my grandparents share and the foundation that the Hastings family is built upon.
I know I'm going to be sad for awhile and the pain will lessen with time, but I can be happy to have had such a wonderful man and strong example in my life for 36 years. I'm one of the lucky ones!