Early last week, I got the unexpected news that my grandfather had died. He was 95 years old, and he had been in a physical decline, but it nonetheless took me by surprise, if nothing else because my mother, uncles, cousins, sister, and I were all still emailing one another every couple days trying to decide what to do about whether and how we should get additional in-home assistance for him as his health was declining beyond what even his part-time aide/friend could handle.
Grandpa Rondo was a stalwart, sardonic, and kind gentleman. He was full of stories about the past and commentary on the present, he was always ready with a joke or a snack when people came to visit, and he was a golfer extraordinaire. And I do mean extraordinaire, hitting holes in one and winning senior tournaments and "shoot-your-age" tournaments and getting new golf clubs for his birthday at age 92. We thought he would never stop golfing - but, as I said, then came this year's decline in physical health that took us by surprise, even though it shouldn't have.
Grandpa always had a faithful canine companion by his side, but he also suffered a severe loneliness during the past 13 years (almost exactly) since the death of his wife, my grandma, Geraldine, the piano prodigy who wowed her family and all of Utah with her musical prowess before the rampaging arthritis wrecked her fingers too badly for her to play anymore. Grandpa has reminded us since she died, daily, about the void her passing left in his life.
I am glad that our family got many chances to visit him over the past few months, including filling his Utah house with a couple dozen friends and family members for his 95th birthday party a couple of weeks ago, complete with bagpipes! And yet, I will always wish I had spent more time - just one more visit per year, perhaps, or one more phone call this month, or a few more letters and cards this summer, in addition to what I did.
Rondo was my last surviving grandparent. I lost them in 1997 (Grandma Curtis), 2002 (Grandpa Napikoski), 2007 (Grandma Napikoski), and now 2010, Grandpa Curtis. I am really grateful that I got to know all four of my grandparents, something I know not everyone in life gets to do. I am also glad that I got to know them, although some better than others, as an actual adult, and not just a shy child or petulant adolescent with better things to do than go to grandma's house.
I am also glad that Brian and I got to travel to Utah and participate in Rondo's funeral service with loads of family members, his neighbors, and his golfing buddies. I am grateful that my cousin made a slide show of pictures and music that gave us a chance to look back on a life that spanned a mind-boggling century. It was a reminder that all century-long lives are mind-boggling, too.
The days of this past week and a half since getting the news have been a whirlwind, with funeral and travel arrangements, the family gathering, the time spent at the mortuary and the grave, and the trip back home to Chicago. Now I settle into my world without grandparents, and watch their legacies live on through me, and try to honor them.